He's played 31 games for the All Blacks, but Saturday's test against Wales could be the start of a new era for Sam Cane.

The Chiefs openside flanker has been Richie McCaw's trusty understudy in the No 7 jersey since debuting in 2012, peppering 13 starts among 18 appearances off the bench.

With McCaw enjoying his retirement, the 24-year-old Cane has a chance to make the jersey his own after extremely consistent Super Rugby performances.

Cane leads all New Zealanders in made tackles with 143, at an impressive 91 per cent success rate, and is seventh in turnovers won.


The increased status hasn't fazed Cane, who has kept his usual methods of preparation.

"I haven't approached it much differently to how I normally would.

"Any time you get to pull on the black jersey and run out with a starting number is pretty special. I won't take it for granted that's for sure."

While the temptation for comparison with McCaw will always exist, Cane has no qualms about the role he is stepping into.

"There's no point worrying about what everyone else is saying. Every time as an individual you want to go out there and play as well as you can. That pressure doesn't come externally, it comes internally."

Much like Cane provided competition for McCaw, there will be no complacency for the Chiefs No 7, with the explosive Ardie Savea waiting for a chance.

Savea showed his potential in Super Rugby with the Hurricanes this season, claiming twice as many turnovers as Cane, being far more dangerous with ball in hand and impressing defensively. He was also taken as an apprentice on the All Blacks' end-of-year tour in 2013 so has long been seen as a player with considerable potential.

Cane says pressure for places is nothing new, and invites the competition.

"I'll try make the most of the opportunity because I know there's plenty of other fullas nipping at the heels. I'm lucky enough to get the first crack.

"Pretty much every year in Super Rugby I've been battling with guys just to play. That's one of the strengths of the New Zealand game so that's not something that will change."

Saturday night also marks the first time Cane will take on Wales, with his matchup with Sam Warburton sure to be pivotal.