Warren Gatland is making his mark as Gallagher Chiefs' coach this season, ditching co-captains and naming Bay of Plenty rugby superstar Sam Cane as the sole skipper.

Gatland says selecting the loose forward - a respected member of the Chiefs squad, experienced "world-class" player and notable leader - as captain is a "no-brainer".

Cane will captain the Chiefs for the Investec Super Rugby campaign, with their season starting against the Blues at Eden Park on January 31, before their first home game of the season in round two, against the Crusaders at Waikato Stadium on February 8.

Before that however, the Chiefs play their only pre-season match tomorrow afternoon, facing the Blues at Rugby Park in Waihī in front of a sell-out crowd.


It will be the Chiefs' first pre-season fixture in Waihī and the first run of the season under Gatland, who has committed to the Chiefs for the next four years.

The squad have spent much of this week camping at Waihī, with Cane saying it has been a good way to bond with the team members, with plenty of backyard cricket being played.

"A lot of boys have spent a wee bit of time over here but only being a bit over an hour from Hamilton so to have this community behind us, a sold out Waihī ground, it's awesome," Cane says.

He says the field looks in good nick and is looking forward to a strong pre-season game.

"Everyone wants to start the season well and you don't take pre-season games lightly," he says.

Gatland, the former Wales coach and former Waikato head coach and Chiefs technical advisor, says the co-captain set up was not something he had a lot of experience with. A vice-captain is yet to be selected but he is confident in there being plenty of experience and leadership in the team to support Cane as captain.

"It's something that I haven't really used a lot in the past and myself coming back, I just wanted to identify working with one person ... nothing against co-captains.

"Sam has co-captained the Chiefs since 2016. He is an experienced campaigner who is well respected by the players and management. We believe it was important to identify one person this season to lead the team and that individual would be supported by the team's leadership group."


Gatland is focused on his role as coach and believes the Chiefs have plenty of potential to make an impact in the competition in the next few seasons.

"It's great to be home and I'm passionate about this region and about the Chiefs and I'm really excited about this year," Gatland says.

"If you're worried about the expectation and the pressure, then you shouldn't be doing the job."

Cane, who made his Chiefs debut in 2012, was part of the teams' 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby title wins. He has co-captained alongside Charlie Ngatai, Aaron Cruden and Brodie Retallick for the past four seasons.

Cane says he is looking forward to leading the talented 2020 squad.

"I don't feel like I'm going it alone by any means.

"It is an honour to be asked to captain this side and I am excited for the season to kick off. We have a talented squad, with a good mix of experience and gifted young players. This combined with a fantastic group of experienced leaders, we believe will be the right ingredients to help drive us to another title.

Cane is looking forward to "working with and learning off" Gatland, who has been instrumental to the success of the Welsh national side during his tenure with an impressive record of four Six Nations Titles, including three grand slams.

"We are privileged to be able to have a coach of his calibre lead a great coaching group."

Pre-Season Fixture:
Gallagher Chiefs v Blues.
Date: Friday, January 17.
Time: 3pm kick-off, gates open at 1.30pm.
Venue: Waihī Athletic Rugby Club, Rugby Park, Waihī.