On Wednesday 23rd 2015, there was an All Black media conference that sent ripples throughout the nation’s rugby fans.
Sam Cane, the young understudy for King Richie at only 23 years of age will lead the All Blacks into battle against Namibia at the Rugby World Cup.
It’s an announcement that was met with hearty celebrations from some and cautiousness from others.
In a reasonably young/uncapped starting XV, Cane has been picked over his more senior team mates such as Victor Vito, Liam Messam and Sam Whitelock.
New Zealand can’t really be blamed for being nervous with this call. For many, it was a wakeup call that the international careers of some of our best and greatest All Blacks are coming to a close.
Icons such as Richie, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu will be hanging up the black jersey at the close of Rugby World Cup 2015.
This reality suddenly seems more real now that we are in the Pool Stages of the Rugby World Cup, as if up until this point it was a dream or something that didn’t need to be handled until the time came.
The time is now.
The election of Sam Cane as our 67th All Black captain has brought forward the fact that next years All Black squad will look very different indeed as so many chapters close after the World Cup campaign.
Naturally Kieran Read seems to be the next captain after Richie. He, along with Mealamu have been McCaws right hand men. That position now seems destined for Sam Cane, the only natural replacement NZ currently have to take over the coveted black 7 jersey.
This starting XV against Namibia may end up featuring many of next year’s starting All Blacks. Cane already has number 7 in the bad. Fekitoa should be in the midfield mix with no Nonu or Smith next year.
Ben Franks will most likely end up taking Woodcocks number 1 jersey and it would be fair to say that unless Aaron Cruden plays some of the best rugby of his life next Super Rugby season, Barrett or Sopoaga are in line for the number 10 kicking duties.
At 23 years old, Sam Cane has another 10 years ahead of him in a black jersey (barring serious injury). He has been deemed the leader for a new generation of All Blacks while names like Read, Messam and Smith will become ‘the old guard’.
Its natural for the public to feel a little tentative about the new blood coming through the ranks but that’s part of our national sport. Soon, there will be another young flanker on the bench awaiting his turn. And so the cycle continues.
Change is pivotal to make sure the All Blacks stay successful in the world of rugby. It’s a sport that continues to change and evolve and Sam Cane is the latest in the next evolution for the All Blacks.
The ground work has been set for him – he has no one to blame for any potential failure. The best we as the New Zealand supporters can do is to put our trust in the coaching staff that have laid out this path and put our faith in Cane as a Kiwi rugby player who will strive to fill the boots of the legend that preceded him.
As per usual, there will be the ‘couch coaches’ and ‘keyboard warriors’ who claim that Cane isn’t ready, that there are much better choices waiting in the wings that should have been picked. To those people, I say this: there is a reason why you are not an All Black selector. If the player you like better is as good as you think he is – they would of picked him.
I will take the word of a panel of experienced rugby experts over someone who’s greatest rugby achievement is winning Jonah Lomu Rugby on Hard Mode.
The current pecking order for the black 7 jersey is as follows:
-Insert other loose forward here.
Sorry to disappoint any Savea fans here – he’s not cutting it at openside. My recommendation will be for him to swap to the blindside. With Messam off to Rio, Kaino getting up in age and Vito never really slotting into a permanent position, Ardie would do much better for himself at 6.
Matt Todd is building himself into a strong, consistent player that looks much more comfortable at 7 while I feel Ardie is much more versatile.
With yesterdays announcement ushering a new age of young blood in New Zealand rugby, the question is whether they will be up to the standard set by their predecessors. Can they, like those before them, carry the hopes and dreams of an entire sporting nation?
As I sit here, typing this away for you to read, these are the kind of things I think about. I believe that they will because I believe in the black jersey.
I believe in the legacy and the history of the All Blacks. And ultimately, I believe in Sam Cane as an All Blacks captain.
Sam Cane is only the 2nd Chiefs player in history to be captain of the All Blacks. The other was Mils Muliaina in 2009.