Cane is the future
Sat, 19 Oct 2013 11:48
He is just getting better and better
Flank Sam Cane's outstanding performance underlined the depth of the All Blacks squad and showed what the future holds for New Zealand.
Cane helped the All Blacks finish their domestic Test season unbeaten, as they recorded a 41-33 victory over Australia in their Bledisloe Cup clash in Dunedin on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Cane was a late inclusion for Richie McCaw, after the inspirational skipper suffered a calf injury at training on Thursday.
The quality of the replacement ensured there was disruption to the world champions' performance.
Cane was earmarked by coach Steve Hansen last year as McCaw's successor, though he had struggled to stamp his authority on games or indicate he was adjusting to the Test level.
His performances this season, however, in which he had started five previous Tests have been widely praised by the All Blacks management.
He provided the impetus for his side in Saturday's third and final match against Australia, which was a 'dead rubber' after the All Blacks clinched the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy earlier in the year, with his defence, linking play, work at the breakdown and storming runs.
"He is just getting better and better with game time and experience and it's nice to know we have got another one in the cupboard," Hansen said of Cane's performance that ensured the All Blacks have now not lost a test at home since 2009, a run of 30 successive matches.
Hansen was satisfied with the overall performance, while admitting the occasional defensive shortcoming.
"It wasn't perfect, but we really didn't expect it to be from where we've been and what we've done in the last three weeks," the coach said.
"Maybe we let a couple of soft ones in but at the end of the day it's a lot better than last year."
He had wanted his team to match their standards when beating South Africa 38-27 in Johannesburg two weeks ago to claim the Rugby Championship.
"In some ways we probably did and others we didn't because we didn't have that intensity at the end," he said.
"We came here and are playing a team that we're marginally in front of so it came down to a mental thing for us.
"[Australia] played with a lot more freedom tonight than they have been and, as a consequence, scored some tries."
The game looked dead and buried as early as the 47th minute with the All Blacks up 33-19 and attacking a broken Wallabies line.
But an intercept to Tevita Kuridrani, who put over inside centre Matt Toomua, narrowed the gap to seven.
The fightback didn't last, All Blacks captain Kieran Read crossing in the 53rd minute after a superb team build up that epitomised their four tries.
Read said he felt his side always had the game under control.
"The way they [Wallabies] got in the game in that first half was through our ill-discipline," he said.
"We felt that every time we got down their end we were getting some points so it was about building momentum."
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