Springboks will face worthy All Blacks leader in Cane

Sam Cane (Getty)
Sam Cane (Getty)

Under the expert hand of Rassie Erasmus (and quite possibly onward into Jacques Nienaber's tenure as head coach), the Springboks gradually restored once-staple "normal service" in rivalry with the All Blacks: the likelihood that every bilateral Test will carry a strong expectation of being a nail-biter.

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I will be flabbergasted, considering the way the Boks have expanded their depth of talent and the New Zealanders have just slipped down a little from a dizzy, decade-long high, if we suddenly start seeing in the next two or three years any repeat of the lopsided, sometimes horror-show results witnessed, for example, in Allister Coetzee's troubled SA reign.

But that said, I also believe new All Black coach Ian Foster has chosen very wisely with his revelation a few days ago of Sam Cane as new captain of the national team ... a worthy counter, perhaps, to the booming gravitas of the Boks' own leader in RWC 2019-winning Siya Kolisi.

With occasional, temporary exceptions in between, our great rivals from across the Indian Ocean have shown firm faith for several years now in loose forwards as distinguished skippers, with both Richie McCaw (twice a lifter of the World Cup, in 2011 and 2015) and Kieran Read steering periods of notable global domination.

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Some NZ pundits seemed to believe Sam Whitelock might get the nod following Rea'’s international retirement, but the gnarly lock turns 32 in October so going the distance to another World Cup in 2023 cannot be regarded as a fait accompliin his case.

But Chiefs open-side dynamo Cane is 28, so at a perfect juncture in many respects to assume the national reins.

He is one of those players whose body language somehow oozes "leadership" even when he hasn’t run out from the front, and I reckon he's got a suitably cool, astute head on his shoulders, too.

A little word of extra caution to South Africans: Cane is used to winning matches against the Boks; nine of his 68 Test caps have come against them (even if three as a substitute) and he has been on the winning side in eight of them, with just one reverse.

*Rob Houwing is Sport24's chief writer. Follow him on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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