Chiefs step up for Cane

Chiefs centurion Sam Cane recalled being spat out the side of a ruck and watching helplessly as his team-mates were defending for their lives while the Highlanders were throwing the kitchen sink to try and snatch victory in Hamilton.

With time running out, the Chiefs held a slender 27-22 lead with the Highlanders hot on attack in the dying minutes and it looked as though one crisp pass from visiting halfback Aaron Smith would find a Highlander in space to score a potentially match-winning try.

But with the ball buried among a throng of bodies in the middle of a ruck under the posts, the Chiefs won a turnover at the most crucial time on an occasion they dedicated to their talismanic leader, who was playing his 100th game for the franchise at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday.

It was the kind of magic act Cane has pulled off so often during his seven-year career, in becoming the openside flanker to take Richie McCaw’s place in the All Blacks, and it’s inspired his team-mates to stand up and be counted for when it matters most.

Cane looked up to see the returning Charlie Ngatai booting the ball clear and the Chiefs survived a relentless final onslaught.

“You’ve just got to look at our captain. It was a big motivation to get a win for him,” Chiefs midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown said.

“We talked about it during the week; he’s the one always leading the pack and it was time for us to step up for him.”

Cane, naturally, deflected the praise but there was a special reception for him on and off the field after the Chiefs won their fourth game on the trot in Super Rugby.

The haka the Chiefs performed in the changing rooms for Cane reverberated around the tunnel and that sent shivers down the 26-year-old’s spine.

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