Sam Cane has backed the decision to bench him during the All Blacks’ loss to Argentina, with the skipper confident that his coaches know best.
Cane was substituted in the 67th minute of Saturday’s defeat
in Christchurch and left to watch from the sidelines as his side unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the Pumas from recording their first win in New Zealand.
It was the fourth time this season that Ian Foster has called for his captain to be replaced. Eyebrows were raised when the coach did so during the decisive third-test loss against Ireland, with Cane also substituted in the All Blacks’ wins over Ireland at Eden Park and South Africa at Ellis Park.
But after making way for Akira Ioane in the key moments at Orangetheory Stadium, Cane had no qualms about not being required for the full 80 minutes.
“That wasn’t talked about or pre-determined or anything to do with me,” he said. “But I back the coaches when they make a decision to sub someone, whether that’s me or anyone else.
“They’re doing it with the best interests of the team at heart and that’s how decisions are made in this team. I don’t take it personally, by any means.”
Cane was similarly supportive of his teammates after their discipline proved costly in Christchurch, as Argentina winger Emiliano Boffelli kicked six penalties to seal the visitors’ historic triumph.
The All Blacks were deemed to have infringed 14 times by Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli and eventually lost loose forward Shannon Frizell to the sin bin in the 70th minute.
In addition to gifting their opposition vital points, Cane admitted the constant transgressions allowed Argentina to escape any pressure the All Blacks had been attempting to build, but the skipper couldn’t fault his side for their defensive desire.
“Test rugby’s just a big pressure cauldron and penalties are what release pressure,” he said. “When you look at penalties, you look at the ones you can control. A lot of them you can – particularly ones like offside.
“But then also we’re pretty eager to get off the line. We’ve got to have the mental patience or discipline to still be eager to get off the line but have a clear line of discipline.
“The eagerness and the intent was right there – it was almost a little bit too much. You’re trying to remind each other and help each other out, particularly with those offside lines.
“Some of the breakdown stuff was real 50-50, but we’ve got to be smarter so the ref doesn’t come into play there.”
That will be a focus in Saturday’s rematch in Hamilton, where the All Blacks need a victory to remain a good chance of retaining their Rugby Championship title. After a “gloomy” travel day was followed by a productive review, Cane is convinced his team are close to producing the type of performances that will banish the bad memories accrued this season.
“I don’t think we’re way off,” he said. “There’s no point sulking or dwelling on things – when you put all your energy into things you can control, that helps. And you’ve just got to front up and own it.”