Super Rugby 2019: Sam Cane excited, nervous before long-awaited return from neck injury

If you saw the smile on Sam Cane's face, you would have thought he'd just won the lottery or claimed his second Rugby World Cup.

But the All Blacks and Chiefs flanker is actually pumped to make his long-awaited return to rugby, after seven months on the sidelines with a horror neck injury.

Cane was named on the Chiefs bench for their grudge match against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday night.

"I' pretty excited for it," Cane said of his comeback match.

The 27-year-old hasn't played since he sustained a small break in a vertebra on the lower-right side of his neck, while playing for the All Blacks against the Springboks at Pretoria during last year's Rugby Championship.

He was forced to stay in South Africa to undergo emergency surgery.

After a lengthy rehab process that included months in a neck brace, Cane was cleared to resume contact training last month.

The plan was to return next weekend against the Queensland Reds, but after talking to medical and coaching staff, Cane was given the green light to play in the 'Battle of the Bombays'.

"I've gotten through two full weeks of [contact] training, so there is no reason why I can't come back a week earlier than the original plan.

"There was nothing I was going to gain from another week of full training, so that's how the decision was handled."

Cane is expected to play a good chunk of the second half, but knows there's an outside chance he could be forced onto the field earlier, should one of his loose-forward teammates get injured.

The two-time Super Rugby champion hoped that doesn't happen, but will be ready should that happen  

"I'd be able to do it… I think," said Cane. "It's physical, but it's mainly a mental thing.

Sam Cane and long-term partner Harriet Allen.
Sam Cane and long-term partner Harriet Allen. Photo credit: Getty

"I'd be a massive wreck if that happens and probably won't be able to train [next week], so hopefully that doesn't happen.

"I don't allow myself to overthink the situation or the worst-case things. It was a freak accident.

"The chances of it happening again are so small. I have the same chance as everyone else running around on the field."

Cane added that there were talks about playing a game of club rugby before returning to Super Rugby, but he felt that wasn't necessary.

"There are always nerves before a game, but even the first game back of the season, even if you've been injured or not, the nerves are always elevated.

"If I hadn't have played so many Super Rugby games, but then it would be a good confidence booster to go back and play a game, but I'm confident I'll be able to adjust quickly."

Chiefs teammate Angus Ta'avao, who will play his 100th Super Rugby game against his former team, said it was great to see Cane back after such a horrific injury.

"He's a legend and a massive part of the Chiefs family. He's ready to rip in and I can't wait to see what he does this weekend."

The Chiefs beat the Blues 33-29 earlier this season and are unbeaten in their last 15 games against the Blues in Super Rugby (14 wins, one draw). The Auckland side's last win came in 2011.


Join us for live updates of Blues v Chiefs from 7pm Saturday