Recognised as an outstanding player from an early age, Sam Cane plays for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, for whom he is also captain, and came through the grades with his beloved Bay of Plenty provincial side. Last week, the popular loose forward was named captain of the All Blacks by new coach Ian Foster.
I grew up on a deer farm with my parents and two younger sisters, and every now and then one of the hinds wouldn't take her fawn so we had a few that we hand raised. One named Flash was particularly memorable and became part of the family. He'd come inside, we didn't have to fence him in, he'd just stay on the section like a dog, at least till he got to the stage where he got too big and had to be put in the paddock.
Because Mum is a nurse, she's always been interested in health. When she and Dad started farming deer, she knew that the raw product found in deer velvet had been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and she started making her own deer velvet capsules. I've been taking them since I was about 15. They help in lots of ways – immune system, recovery from training and games and injuries as well. All good things for an athlete.
I rang Mum this morning to chat about a couple of things and she told me a story about when I was studying for NCEA Level 1. She downloaded the exam papers and printed them out so I could study at home. I had no interest whatsoever, but I sat down and attempted them. At the same time, Dad came in and told me that the rugby club was starting a sevens team for summer and Mum reckoned my face lit up. I was so excited, and that was a real light-bulb moment for her when she saw where my real passion lay, and from then on, she thought, "Oh well, let him do what he loves."
I certainly enjoy social media, but like anyone, sometimes I can find myself spending a little too much time on it. I'm not someone who naturally likes to share too much of myself and sometimes I feel like I should be posting a photo if it's been two months since I've done one. Mostly the response online is positive. It still blows me away how many people support you, but you have to remember you're still the same person you were 10 years ago. Particularly in the last few days, the messages of support I've had since the captaincy was announced have been overwhelming, so that aspect of social media is really nice.
Over the first couple of weeks of lockdown, we posted stuff to keep in touch with our fans. Everyone was doing home workouts, but I wanted to do something more fun. Lachlan Boshier, who also plays for the Chiefs, and his girlfriend moved in prior to lockdown to extend our bubble and we made a fishing video for Instagram (@samcane7). Lachie and I were the fishermen and my wife, Harriet, was the fish. It was just a bit of fun.
Our media manager is pretty good at telling us how to manage social media. The main issues are around sponsor conflict, and one thing Joe [Locke] says if you're not sure about posting something: "If you're going to post something, or say something, would you be happy for your grandparents to read it on the front page of the newspaper the next day?" If the answer is no, there's your answer. Use a common-sense approach and, if in doubt, don't share.
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• 'The beauty of him': All Blacks coach Ian Foster reveals Sam Cane can be 'frustrating' to deal with
• Rugby: All Blacks coach Ian Foster fronts captaincy implications for Sam Whitelock and Ardie Savea
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While playing South Africa in 2018, I went to clean out a ruck and at the last second, the guy I was looking to clean out moved and my head made direct contact with his hip and I broke my neck. I don't look back on it as the worst time of my life. I'm fairly resilient and I usually see the positive side of things so, once I had the news that I'd broken my neck but I was going to be okay, I didn't get too down on myself. I consider myself lucky that it wasn't worse. From there it was a steady process of rehabilitation, which took nine months. Guys do their knees, their ACL (anterior cruciate ligaments) and that also takes nine months. The difference with my injury was, if it had been a little bit worse, I could've lost the use of my legs. If I allow myself to stop and think how close I got to that, yeah, that's certainly a bit scary but I try not to let my mind go to that place.
Because I've been playing professionally for almost 10 years, my family and friends all trust my opinions and judgment. They know I have got access to the best medical staff, and the teams I play for have my best interests at heart. They'd never put me out there if I wasn't able to do a good job and I'm strong-willed enough not to put myself out there if I didn't want to be either.
One thing I learned through that process, when I had the neck brace on, was that a lot of people know someone who's had a freak accident, and not just playing rugby. Things, like diving into waves, or tripping on the beach, can cause injuries, so I don't blame rugby, it was just a bit of bad luck.
You do get shoulder tapped for the captaincy. Normally each rugby team has a leadership group of anywhere between five to 10 players out of a squad of 30 to 35. Those guys are in that group because they enjoy the extra responsibility and they want to look for ways the group can improve. Captaincy is certainly not for everyone, not everyone aspires to be the captain, and I'm not someone who chased it, but I realise it's a massive honour to be asked. I wouldn't accept it if I wasn't confident I could do a good job or confident that I had the support of the playing group as well.
It will be challenging. I don't think anyone is born a leader or captain, but you try to evolve and learn, to grow along the way. I've been under some great captains, Richie [McCaw], Kieran [Read] and Liam [Messam], three very different leaders and all very, very good. I've probably taken a wee bit from each of them.
If I could play till I'm 34 or 35 years old, that'd be a great run but, now that I'm 28, it still seems a long way away. Further down the track, I might look at farming. I love the hands-on work, the feeling of doing something, of accomplishing something, then being able to stand back and see it. I also realise, all the knowledge I've picked up through rugby over the years, it's like serving a massive apprenticeship - it'd be a shame not to use it, but I'm just not 100 per cent sure how. In rugby, I've always been interested in that Under 19s age group where guys are close to making it professionally, being able to influence them could be good. Rugby has given me so much, and I'm thankful for that and I love the sport so I would love to be involved in some capacity in the future.