‘I’m not a broken man’ – Sam Cane’s message to Scott Robertson as retiring flanker retains All Blacks ‘drive’

Colin Newboult
All Blacks back-row Sam Cane during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

All Blacks back-row Sam Cane during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Sam Cane insists that he still has a burning desire to play for the All Blacks, despite his impending retirement from Test rugby.

The 32-year-old announced last week that 2024 would be his final season in the international game after he signed a three-year contract with Suntory Sungoliath.

A new captain will therefore be named by Scott Robertson for the July series, reducing Cane’s chances of being selected for New Zealand, but the flanker still has significant aspirations.

Reaching a huge milestone

With the outstanding openside currently sitting on 95 caps, reaching a century is very much in his sights.

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t [part of the motivation],” he told The Breakdown. “Also I’m contracted with NZ Rugby this year, they’ve been outstanding throughout this whole process, and seeing out this year’s contract sits well with me.

“I’m pretty driven to have one last crack at the All Blacks, whatever capacity that may be. This could be my 12th year.

“I know there are never any guarantees with the All Blacks, that you’ve got to earn your spot and prove it, and that won’t change. It’s probably even more reinforced with some new selectors in place.”

Cane has struggled with injuries over recent years and is currently on the sidelines due to a back issue, but the flanker allayed any potential fears Robertson or the selectors may have that he is physically shot.

“Though I’ve had my fair share of injuries, I’m not a broken man who feels like I’m hanging on,” he said. “My body is actually in good shape, and the key is mentally I’m still driven by the challenge of wanting to play rugby and perform well.

“As long as that fire is still there it’s going to take quite a lot from my body for me to give in.”

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The openside will have to prove himself when he returns to fitness, but Cane insists that the ability to play at the highest level remains.

“I’m confident I’ve got lots to offer that team still. Hopefully I can manage to get a few more [Tests] in,” he said. “The first half of my career those Test matches just kept racking up, and the second half, mainly through injuries, they didn’t come as quickly and easily.

“It makes you appreciate it a bit more when you’ve had to go through sometimes hardship to get to the next one.”

Remarkable career

Cane succeeded Richie McCaw as the first choice openside after the 2015 Rugby World Cup and he has been excellent in a New Zealand jersey, despite sometimes being the target of some unfair criticism.

The 32-year-old said that he has surpassed his own initial goals after the back-row revealed a conversation with the All Blacks hierarchy during the early stages of his career.

“I remember getting sat down by Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith as a 20-year-old when they first took over and they said: ‘What do you want to achieve as an All Black?’ I thought a bold goal was to try and play 50 Test matches… if I could achieve that it would be something pretty special,” he added.

“To be on 95, having been to three World Cups and had some memories… I feel hugely lucky and blessed to have done all those things.”

READ MORE: QUIZ: Can you name the ten most recent All Blacks captains?