WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks captain Sam Cane will make his debut in New Zealand’s Super Rugby competition on Sunday when the Waikato Chiefs face the Canterbury Crusaders in a match that will have added spice after some pre-game comments fired up the Hamilton-based side.
A back injury kept Cane out of the Chiefs’ first two matches of Super Rugby Aotearoa and coach Warren Gatland said his experience would be a welcome boost.
“It’s massive for us,” Gatland told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. “We don’t have a lot of talkers in the team, we have do-ers, but Sam coming in and bringing that leadership voice is huge for us.”
The Chiefs lost the first two games and must beat the Crusaders to stay in contention in the 10-week competition but face a daunting visit to Christchurch.
The Crusaders, who are hosting their first home match of the competition, are unbeaten against Super Rugby opposition at Rugby League Park since 2016.
They have also won 17 of their last 19 games against New Zealand sides, though those two losses have been to the Chiefs.
“We’re probably the one team that can stress and put them under pressure,” Gatland said.
“The players ... have a lot of belief that if they do things right they can get it done.’
Gatland added that comments from Crusaders and All Blacks prop Joe Moody earlier this week that he felt there was a “deep-seated hatred” between the two sides meant his team needed no additional motivation.
“I see it as a sign of respect,” he said.
“The Chiefs have been able to get under their skin and had some victories in the past and they don’t like it. I think that’s a positive.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford