THROW BACK! Sam Cane was on the cover of UNO Central back in spring 2011. Read our cover story in issue 40 to find out what he’s up to, now. And read the original feature below. Enjoy!
WORDS CHARLES MARTIN IMAGES QUINN O’CONNELL
It’s been a year of considerable achievement for Bay of Plenty flanker, Sam Cane. He was a member of the New Zealand Under-20 rugby team which won the world championship; he is now an integral member of the Steamers’ squad; and the Chiefs have signed him up for a two year contract. Not bad for this 19-year-old from Reporoa!
I caught up with Sam at the Tay Street Café at the Mount on one of those beautiful crisp, clear spring mornings which makes everyone feel that all is well with the world.
He arrived for our appointment on his trusty Italian scooter right on time at 10 o’clock – which is always a good start as far as I’m concerned. He greeted me with a warm grin and a firm handshake – other good signs. This fast-moving flank forward, already destined for even higher honours I suspect, has already established a reputation as a top player and a good guy – in fact it’s difficult to find anyone to say something bad about Sam Cane! Samuel Jordan Cane was born at the Rotorua Hospital on 13 January 1992 and he was brought up on his parent’s deer farm at Reporoa. Mother Kathy of Dutch stock was a nurse for 20 years and raised a family of three – a son and two younger daughters, Sjaan (17) and Lia (15). She runs a business at home making deer velvet capsules (see www.canedeervelvet.com) which young Sam has been taking from a very early age. They obviously work! Father, Malcolm, runs the deer farm and as a former very useful loose forward himself has coached his son at rugby from the age of five and right through including the First XV at Reporoa College. Sam acknowledges that his Dad is the man who has had the biggest influence on his career and he has never lacked maximum support from his family and indeed the Reporoa community at large.
His keenest fans are three little cousins aged four, six and eight “But I have always had the warmest support from my friends in Reporoa, especially the kids I grew up with there.” Sam is obviously very fond of his family and makes a point of visiting his grand-parents, who now live at Mount Maunganui, at least weekly. “I love to have a chat with them and just keep in touch,” he says. “Some of the best advice I ever got was from Mum – talk to people of all ages.” He has a very soft spot too for the district he was raised in and although Sam spent his final year of schooling at Tauranga Boys College, he went back to his mates at Reporoa College to complete the year with his close school friends there. Loyalty is a real virtue and one he regards highly as a top priority in dealings with people. It was his mates at College who came up with his nickname of ‘Pointer’ short for great white pointer shark. “I guess at school one of my good mates decided I needed a nickname, he thought I was big and white so white pointer would suit. It’s just one of those silly nick names that has managed to stick,” he explains with an accompanying huge grin. Sam Cane flats in Tauranga, with best mate and fellow Steamers’ player Carl Axtens. “We grew up together and both our Dads coached us from the time we first started playing rugby at about the age of five.” Their careers have run parallel ever since.
“Carl’s been with me in the various Bay of Plenty age-group teams, in the New Zealand Under-17 side, the New Zealand Secondary Schools team and in the national Under-20’s side which won the world title in Italy in June. He’s now number 8 in the Steamers and I reckon he has a very bright future in the game.” Apparently they handle the housekeeping together pretty well sharing the chores and “my cooking is getting better,” he says. He rates that win at the world championships as one of the highlights of what is developing into a stellar career. “We were under a lot of pressure because New Zealand had won the world title three years earlier. But they were a great bunch of guys. We all got on really well together and I think everyone was pretty confident we could pull it off. It was a tough final and England pushed us to the edge but we managed to come away with the title which was a big buzz and relief.” Since then there have been a number of highlights including selection in the Bay of Plenty provincial team, signing on with the Chiefs for two years, and marking that other well-known number 7 from Canterbury.
But it takes a lot to phase this young man, and while he is confident in his own ability, he also has a reputation for being able to relax, chill out and introduce a nicely honed sense of humour into most situations. ‘Don’t take life too seriously’ is his mantra, and he is one of those people who can switch on and off between rugby and relaxing. Sam is also quick to acknowledge those who have helped him along the way, like former Chief’s coach Ian Foster who spoke to him while he was still in College and prepared a plan to follow – which has since come to fruition with selection for the Chiefs. There is also local top ‘loosie’ Tanerau Latimer (the Bay of Plenty team is of course dripping with high-class loose forwards – one of its great strengths) who was always ready with help and good advice. “But the game of rugby is full of good people ready to support and encourage younger players. That’s why it is such a great game,” he says.
As a professional rugby player Sam Cane is now involved in the serious business of analysing, reviewing and criticising his own performance, and especially listening to the comments and advice of others. He is acknowledged as being a very good listener by coaches and peers alike.
“I review my game on computers by myself – I think I’m an honest critic – and also have one-on-one discussions with the coaches to identify faults and find areas for improvement. However I really believe the difference between an average player and a very good player is often expressed in the extra work and effort you put into the game. There is no substitute for hard work and application if you want to succeed.” He has pretty definite ideas about things he doesn’t like – people who blame everything on others; those who say one thing and do another; and disloyalty. This is the more serious side of Sam surfacing. He is also strong on the responsibility that goes with an increasingly public persona, especially for professional sportsmen. “If you are a good trainer and work hard, word soon gets around. If you are easily led astray or misbehave socially, then that too gets around – even more quickly! A balanced life is all about enjoying yourself, working hard, demonstrating a sense of personal responsibility, and having some fun and a few laughs.” He likes nothing better than ‘catching up with the boys’, taking in a few movies, a feed of baked beans, eggs and Vogel, listening to the Dire Straits and beating Waikato. And who will win the World Cup? “We will,” said Sam with undisguised certainty.
Is there life after rugby? Sam Cane is not taking any chances. While he is working hard to succeed at the highest level in the game, he is also doing a business diploma course at the Bay of Plenty Polytech. “Right now rugby is obviously the priority, but it’s wise to make some plans for life after rugby and I must say the staff at Polytech have been very helpful in enabling me to accommodate study with the demands of rugby”. The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union’s player development manager, Dean Jennings, said that Sam was identified at a young age as having outstanding talent and ability and he has progressed through the BOP Union Pre-Academy and Academy. “Sam has a great attitude and he is a great trainer. He is an outstanding kid. not just an outstanding player – humble, down to earth and well rounded,” he said. “If he’s not an All Black in the future I will be very surprised.”
LET’S GIVE THE LAST WORD TO HIS MUM. “He’s never given us too much trouble and has been a good influence in our family – he can have fun out of nothing. I especially like the way he treats other members of the family and the close relationship he has with his grand-parents,” she said. “Sam is a good listener and respects other people’s advice. He’s a good son.” Those of us who follow rugby are well aware of the prowess of this dashing young Bay of Plenty Number 7 and the bright future ahead of him. But it’s always nice to learn a little about the person behind the player and Sam Cane certainly ticks all the boxes. He will make an excellent future All Black.