Sam Cane's return to the Chiefs has seen a surge in form for a side that had been struggling.
One man alone never makes a team, but many who have dealt with Cane during his career won't see the improvements as a case of sheer coincidence.
Assistant All Blacks coach Ian Foster was in the management team that in 2013 elevated a startled 21-year-old Cane to the senior players' group in the All Blacks. Foster says they saw Cane as a future leader after the exodus of experience that would come after the 2015 World Cup.
"Sam was always pretty self-reliant in how he went about preparing himself," Foster says. "He took responsibility for his own performance, and so there were leadership qualities we saw.
"Second, we had Richie [McCaw] who was captaining the team, and we deemed that he would perhaps be the best example and mentor we could find for Sam. To actually have him work alongside Richie and to see how he operated was a great chance for Sam to see not only an outstanding seven but also an outstanding leader at work."
It was a chance Cane seized on, even if he was a bit awestruck at first.
"I was more shocked than anyone," he told me. "For at least a year I felt like I shouldn't be there. My philosophy was, 'We've got guys with this much knowledge and experience, I am not saying anything unless I'm asked for it or I feel really strongly about something.' But it was great learning, and within a couple of years I learned so much about how to think deeper about the game. I've no doubt the time has helped me massively."
The McCaw connection?
"We had a tight relationship. I'm the type of character, if there was something I wanted to ask him [McCaw] about, I never felt that I couldn't. We were pretty open about things."
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Cane comes from a group of All Black leaders, including McCaw, that has its roots deep in heartland New Zealand.
There was Brian Lochore in the 1960s; Graham Mourie in the 1970s; McCaw; and now Kieran Read, who tried city life as a teenager, when he was headhunted to play rugby for St Kentigern College, but returned home to round out his high school years at Rosehill College in Papakura.
They all had their own special methods to inspire teammates.
Lochore had a sincerity that carried over into his coaching when his All Blacks won the first World Cup in 1987. He was never a screamer on the training track or in the shed, but as one of his '87 charges said, "BJ's one of those guys you just don't want to let down."
Mourie as captain presented almost as a mystic to All Blacks from the city. When Stu Wilson found I was heading to stay at the Mourie family farm in 1980 for a lengthy story, he said, "You may find Goss [Mourie's rugby nickname] won't say much. But when he does make sure you listen closely. It'll be worthwhile."
So it proved.
A genius for anticipating what might happen on the field, Mourie could be a brilliant lateral thinker off it. It was his idea in 1977, when the All Blacks had been monstered in a first test 18-13 loss to France, to take short lineouts and tap kicks a week later in Paris, and run the legs off a massive French pack.
When a giant French prop, Gerard Cholley, gasped, "Merde, not another lineout", Mourie knew the game was safe.
The All Blacks won 15-3.
McCaw inspired by the sheer physical effort he brought to every game.
"He wasn't the fastest at training," longtime Crusader and All Black teammate Andy Ellis says, "and he wasn't the strongest. But on the field? Nobody ever had a bigger engine."
Read is famous among his teammates for being collegial. He remembers the names of wives, partners and children, and takes a genuine interest in the welfare of young players.
Cane brings to the table a maturity that's always been beyond his years.
In a world where there's fretting about umbrella or helicopter parents, his childhood on the family deer farm outside Reporoa was an almost quintessential example of how much a boy can grow and develop if given the chance.
When he was 13 and 14 he was taking on adult responsibilities with his father, Malcolm.
"I helped Dad out on the farm. Then, when I got good at something, he'd actually pay me to do the job. He would say, 'You're doing good work for me, so you deserve to get paid for it'. It wasn't until I got to a level where I was worthy of it that I got paid.
"Whether it was tractor work, pulling down fences, feeding out, whatever it was, I did plenty for nothing, but when there was a big job to be done I had a responsibility to complete those jobs."
At 18, Cane was boarding in Tauranga with a close mate from Reporoa, Carl Axtens, training with the Bay of Plenty academy, playing for Tauranga Boys' and making the New Zealand secondary schools' squad.
So the move certainly worked for their rugby. And, says Cane, "It was also a good fit to challenging us as people, to grow up fairly quickly. It was a little like being at university. There was a lot more responsibility on us to turn up to training, and to turn up for school."
After returning for the Chiefs from his fearful neck injury it's clear Cane has no lingering doubts about what he can do on the field, whether foraging for turnover ball or making the head-on tackles that are a feature of his game.
Off the field, he's just as committed, this time to the inclusive culture the All Blacks have developed.
"They're empowering people, so they have a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership, and in return they get the best out of them. There's no doubt the All Blacks are leaders on that front.
"We say a form of leadership is to be vulnerable, and accept that you don't know everything. It doesn't matter where the right answer comes from, as long as we get there in the end."
The attitude of allowing yourself to be vulnerable is not one you would automatically associate with Steve Tew, who stands down as the CEO of New Zealand Rugby in December.
Tew has been a lightning rod for critics of the NZRU over the past 12 years. Out of what naysayers called "The Kremlin" he was apparently to blame for everything from the demise of club rugby, to the exodus of players to Europe and Japan, to any All Black defensive problems, to crop failures and the closing of maternity hospitals in rural New Zealand.
All of which is, frankly, nonsense.
He had his failings. From the time I first met him, in 1996, he was inclined to not bother with the velvet glove, more often wielding an iron fist inside an iron glove. At the time Canterbury and the Crusaders were actively poaching some key players around the country, and, as a Canterbury board member once joked, "The good thing about Steve is that when someone rings from another province moaning about a player we've just got, he's never afraid to tell them to get stuffed."
It didn't help that he has the build of the club rugby lock he once was in Wellington, which makes it easier to typecast him as a rugby heavy.
But he's steered the game here through a torturous time with what amounts to little recognised brilliance. Between finding, and holding, huge sponsorship deals, and being flexible about contracts, the Tew era has seen the All Blacks become, and stay, the best team in the world.
And, rather as it took a renowned anti-communist like Richard Nixon to resume relations between the United States and China in the 1970s, someone seen as a softer, more politically correct CEO than Tew couldn't have taken the overdue, but still real and dramatic, steps that will make the game more inclusive for women, and sincerely address homophobia.
History will rate those changes, along with two World Cup victories, and getting the tournament here in 2011, as the gems in Tew's legacy.
As an aside, and as an illustration of a side to the man some would be surprised by, I discovered by accident a few years ago that Tew signed off on assistance that kept afloat "The New Zealand Rugby Almanack", the brilliant labour of love that has recorded every detail of the game here since 1935.
I congratulated him, noting how great it was to see heart ruling over a balance sheet.
I received a brief, humble, thank you by email.
"After all," he wrote, "traditions are important for our game."