Sam Cane is in line to make his return to rugby for the Chiefs this weekend after overcoming a neck injury that kept him sidelined since late last year.
Cane's status for 2019 was thought to be in doubt after he fractured his neck while playing for the All Blacks in South Africa last October. However, the loose forward has proved his fitness to get some much needed game time under his belt.
Cane was named on the bench for the Chiefs, who go into a vital clash against the Blues in Auckland this week. Speaking to the Herald in January, he admitted he had no clear return date, but was hopeful he would be able to "get a sneaky couple of games" at the end of the season.
"As bad as the injury was, I also, in a funny way, felt pretty lucky because it could have been a lot worse," Cane said. "We're only a couple of millimetres away from never playing again so in a funny way I was pretty grateful that I was going to be OK and, one: I was going to be able to live a healthy, normal life and two: to get back playing rugby is awesome."
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The 27-year-old won't be the only one returning for the Chiefs this week, with prop Aidan Ross also overcoming a neck injury to join Cane on the bench. And while Cane returns for his 107th Super Rugby outing, fellow loose forward Mitchell Jacobson will make his debut in the competition should his number be called from the reserves.
The former New Zealand under-20s representative gets his opportunity as the Chiefs continue to struggle through injury woes. Jacobson's brother, Luke, is unavailable after suffering a head knock at training, loose forwards Taleni Seu (shoulder) and Lachlan Boshier (back) were also ruled out, while Mitchell Brown and Jesse Parete continue to be used as cover locking the scrum.
Chiefs: Solomon Alaimalo, Sean Wainui, Tumua Manu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Marty McKenzie, Brad Weber, Tyler Ardron, Mitchell Karpik, Pita Gus Sowakula, Mitchell Brown, Jesse Parete, Angus Ta'avao, Nathan Harris, Atu Moli.
Reserves: Liam Polwart, Aidan Ross, Nepo Laulala, Mitchell Jacobson, Sam Cane, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Shaun Stevenson, Alex Nankivell.