Rugby: All Blacks star Sam Cane out to honour 'Pinetree' in King Country cameo

Taupō is gearing up to welcome Sam Cane, as he makes his long-awaited return to rugby.

On Saturday, the All Blacks captain will play for the King Country Rams in their Heartland Championship clash with Whanganui.

Fans will be charged a gold coin entry for the Cane experience at Owen Delany Park, whose banks are expected to be overflowing come kick-off.

King Country were greeted by rugby royalty at their latest training in Mangakino, where Cane's preparations for this weekend's match have had a touch of nostalgia to them.

"Tough conditions under the lights," Cane tells Newshub. "I haven't trained at night in a long time, probably since club footy.

The 29-year-old has been out of action since March, after tearing a tendon in his chest, but will run out for the Rams to get some much-needed match conditioning, before rejoining the All Blacks in the US for their northern tour.

Cane - who was granted a dispensation to play for Kng Country due to his regular Bay of Plenty side being on a bye week - admits his latest lengthy injury absence has been a challenge.

"It's been pretty frustrating in terms of timing, to pick up an injury four games into the season," he says.

But now he's back, signing autographs for fans, including one keen youngster who stayed to watched the Rams' entire training session on Thursday night. 

Next week, Cane leaves for the US and realises there's no guarantee of an instant return to the All Blacks jersey. 

"Once I get over there, I'm realistic about what's going on," Cane insists. "There's nothing promised. It's about going over there and taking my opportunities."

With the coveted Pinetree Log - dedicated to King Country and All Blacks legend Sir Colin Meads - on the line in Saturday's match, Cane's appearance is perfect timing for the Rams.

"'Pine' is the backbone of this jersey and we are going to do our best to get our hands on it again," says King Country skipper Carl Carmichael.

And they may have added the ideal Ram to the flock to attempt to defend it.

"Pretty important," says Cane. "Everyone was talking about it tonight."

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