The naming of Sam Cane as All Blacks captain has pushed the number of national sports captains Tauranga Boys' College has produced to four. Cira Olivier finds out what the secret is to breeding sporting leaders.
Nature, nurture and unwavering determination. That's the recipe for a national sporting leader according to Grant Marshall.
He would know, he's the physical education faculty leader at Tauranga Boys' College, a school which has produced four of them.
With the announcement Sam Cane is the new All Blacks captain, the college is celebrating producing four national sports team captains, three current.
The college also schooled Black Caps captain Kane Williamson and Emirates Team NZ skipper Peter Burling, as well as Tanerau Latimer, the former Māori All Blacks captain.
In 2008 Williamson was head boy while Burling was the sports captain.
The school's sporting leaders have said producing the sporting leadership seen in the four men is a mixture of nature, nurture and a lot of low-key but unwavering determination.
Marshall, who helped coach Cane and Latimer, said all four men had an ability to push themselves in ways others would not.
They all got on well with their peers, were compassionate and would channel their high standards to lead by example, he said.
They were not afraid to seek advice and had a burning desire to be better which helped others in the team aspire to be better, Marshall said.
He recalled Latimer's work ethic, biking about 24km from Te Puke to Mauao, running up twice, and then biking home to get him to his best performance level.
Marshall said the school's wide range of people, flavours and cultures also played a part in developing the mens' leadership and helping them find their own style.
The college offers an Athlete Development Programme including 37 sports.
🗣️ "As a player you don't chase captaincy, it is something you grow into and evolve over years of learning and building your craft" - @SamCane7 talks about his selection as the new All Blacks captain.— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) May 5, 2020
FULL STORY 👉🏽 https://t.co/LRaEqXOBWg pic.twitter.com/fvJNRLoLfS
There is a component of leadership training in the programme and students would coach at primary schools and learn leadership principles, communication, organisation and motivation.
Neil Howard, who was Williamson's coach, said the size and location of the school was "the perfect storm" and male leaders within the school led by example.
He said the four men shared a quiet determination.
"There was just no rah-rah and beating at the chest, just some solid Kiwi work ethic."
He said sporting excellence was woven into the school's DNA and many of the alumni who were professional sportsmen were also still in contact with the school.
Deputy principal and Cane's former coach Leyton Watson said seeing the high number of captains in popular sports from the school within years of each other was "pretty amazing".
He said not only was it something the school and community were proud of but it showed young people that if they worked hard, the possibilities were there.
"For young kids coming through it certainly gives them something to aspire to, whatever it might be, whether it's sports, the arts, music or academics."
Watson said many people were involved with Cane over his career and remembered the competitive and determined Year 13 whose good attitude towards the game inspired his teammates.
"We're proud to see him reach that achievement, it's pretty much the best you can do in the game."
Principal Robert Mangan said the school had a strong culture of striving for excellence as well as teachers who were fully-involved in sports which provided students with extra motivation.
Mangan said Cane's leadership was evident from the beginning, recalling a student who led from the front with an unwavering determination for the sport.
"He was very humble and very determined ... all his training and when he was on the field, he had a real sense of purpose.
"I remember watching him in some of our Super 8 games, he just wouldn't give up. As a Number 7, I can remember him chasing down a winger from Hamilton Boys' and he just pursued him for about 50 metres before he tackled him."
The focused determination carried over from field to classroom, Mangan said. Cane worked hard to juggle his work with rugby commitments and got along with fellow students and teachers.
Mangan said watching the journey of the old boy had been continually impressive.
Cane moved from Reporoa College to Tauranga Boys' College in 2010 for his final year at school.
Reporoa College principal Brendan Carroll said while Cane had been at the school before his time, the community was proud of him.
"I think it just shows small rural schools can produce very successful people. It shows the strength of small communities.
"Small communities can breed success."
As you drive into Reporoa there is a sign proudly stating "You're in Sam Cane country. Go the ABs!"
UPDATE | #AllBlacks loose forward @SamCane7 is up and about after his successful operation in South Africa. Sam would like to thank everyone for all the support he has received from around the world, he is set to make a full recovery. 👊 pic.twitter.com/sdbeSMHVkI— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 9, 2018
Deputy principal Jane Goss, who has worked at the school about 12 years said she remembered Cane as a "capable young man".
"He had an amazing sense of humour and he was often found on the rugby field with his ball ... Rugby was his thing."
Goss said Cane had strong leadership skills was well-liked while at school and by students now.
"We're lucky for our kids to have someone to look up to. All the kids are mad fans."
When she heard the news she thought it was well-deserved.
"He's a great leader on and off the field," she said.
"Everybody will be very proud it's something for us to celebrate."
The school of just 230 students no longer has a first XV team so "to have an All Blacks captain we feel we're doing really well".
In a video statement posted to the All Blacks, Cane said it was an honour and privilege to be named captain.
"As a player, you don't chase captaincy, it is something you grow into and evolve over years of learning and building your craft."
He said his style as captain would be to not really change the way he did things.
"I'm just myself and will continue to be. I already work on building relationships, especially with the younger guys in the squad, and everyone else connected with the team, so that will continue," he said.
Cane told Sky Sport's Breakdown show he had thought about the leadership style he wanted to impart on the All Blacks.
"I'd like to be very inclusive and build good relationships with all the guys in the squad. The younger guys are a massive part of any team, so it's important to get around them, so when the time comes for a stern word, you know it's coming from a caring place.
"I enjoy hearing other peoples' opinions and that helps form my own. I'll be very much encouraging of everyone to step up and be themselves and hear them out.
"You just have to look at the quality we've got in that team – there's plenty of guys with more experience than me and they're probably a lot smarter, too, so I'm not afraid to be wrong. As long as we get the right answers as a group, then it's a win."
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said there was massive respect for Cane amongst the players and management.
"Sam is an experienced All Black with eight years in the team now and is a 'follow me' type of leader and a very good thinker in the game. He has a natural ability to connect with everyone in the team and is straightforward and direct when he needs to be," Foster said.
"He was perfectly placed to lead the All Blacks into the future."
Bay of Plenty Rugby chief executive Mike Rogers said it was such a "high honour" for Cane and his family, and a special moment for Bay of Plenty rugby who Cane still contributed to now.
"His upbringing shaped him tremendously into a great young man and a good person, he said, and this gave him a good foundation to support other players and work with others in the role."