Sam Cane's mum has revealed the secret inspiration their All Blacks star son savoured before his heroic return to the test arena.
Cane, 27, captained the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Buenos Aires last Sunday – less than nine months after fracturing his neck against the Springboks in Pretoria.
Just days after the horror injury, he revealed that if it wasn't for the "circumference and strength of my neck" he may have been confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Ahead of tonight's test against the Springboks in Wellington – which the 61-test veteran will sit out as the All Blacks' selectors give game-time to other squad members – Cane's mother Kathy revealed that well-wishes in the build-up to his test return included family of another spinal victim who hadn't been so fortunate.
"As we watched Sam take the field last week we felt incredibly grateful once again, for the sheer luck - and genetics we were told - that saved his spinal cord, and also the skill of the medical profession who set him on the road to recovery," she told the Weekend Herald.
"Last week before the game we read a message of support to Sam from a parent in Australia whose son had the same injury, and while he wasn't paralysed, he will never play rugby again."
While blessed their own son has been able to both recover from the injury, including being able to continue his elite sporting career, Kathy said the family were "mindful too of others who are even less fortunate in the cards they are dealt".
Cane was injured after colliding with a Springbok in the All Blacks' dramatic 32-30 win in Pretoria.
Medical specialists weren't initially aware of the severity of Cane's injury, something Kathy said was "probably a good thing".
"And soon after they did realise, they also told him they could work their magic and it was likely that he could play again. As soon as he heard that he kind of relaxed a bit, and took it in his stride and then it becomes a lesson in patience."
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Kathy said she had nothing but praise for the help and support offered by both New Zealand Rugby and South Africa Rugby after the injury scare which "made the whole experience a lot less stressful".
She added her son, like his peers, was well aware injuries were part and parcel of rugby.
But she stressed: "Nobody expects to break your neck, but you can't blame the rugby.
"The surgeon did several such operations around the same time as Sam's and the causes were all different. Yes professional rugby is a high risk occupation, but then so is driving a car."
After a lengthy rehab period, Cane finally returned to the field for the Chiefs in their Super Rugby clash against the Blues in May.
Kathy confided it was a "nervous time" to see him return to the high impact sport.
He wasted little time on his return to Super Rugby to show again the playing ability and leadership which has him become one of the All Blacks' key players.
"He is back there of his own choice, with his eyes wide open, and we fully support him in that," Kathy said.
"In saying that, his dad and I did say to ourselves a couple of times during the rehab months that we would be perfectly happy if he hung up his boots."
Kathy said the Cane family was "very proud" of the rugby star – who has two younger sisters - adding that "it still feels surreal when we see him in the amazing places and situations he gets to experience as an All Black".
There was also a lot of pride within the Reporoa community that Cane hails from.
"The feeling of pride however, is no different to the one every parent feels when their child runs out for their very first game of sport as a 5-year-old, or takes on any such big challenge in their lives," she said.
"To be honest we feel just as proud of all our children as they follow their different paths in life. I think you just want them to be good people, and be happy doing what they do."
The very proud Canes are hopeful of joining scores of other Kiwis who will cheer on the All Blacks in in Japan in their bid to win a third successive Rugby World Cup when the tournament kicks off in September.
The World Cup clashes with a "busy time" on the Cane family's deer farm at Reporoa, but Kathy said her and Malcolm hoped to be there "for at least a week or two".