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Both carded in the World Cup final, Kolbe and Cane are now teammates

South Africa's Cheslin Kolbe (R) and New Zealand All Blacks captain Sam Cane (L) pose in their new uniforms following a press conference for the Japanese rugby side Suntory Sungoliath at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, Tokyo on November 28, 2023. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP) (Photo by RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP via Getty Images)

After a dramatic Rugby World Cup final that had completely different outcomes for each of them, Cheslin Kolbe and Sam Cane are now reunited a month later at Tokyo Sungoliath in Japan.

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All Blacks skipper Cane was sent off in the final, as South Africa went on to win 12-11 in Paris, while Kolbe himself spent some time on the sidelines, yellow carded late in the game and unable to watch the final minutes.

They now get to share their war stories as teammates, donning the new Sungoliath kit with their team.

Suntory Sungoliath players
Cheslin Kolbe and Sam Cane with their new Suntory Sungoliath teammates

Cane signed a one-season deal and as it’s the first time he’s played outside of his home country, feels it will test him as a rugby player.

“A lot of the areas that I want to get better at in my game – speed, agility – are all required in this league,” said the 31-year-old loose forward.

“It will test me to evolve my game and I’m really looking forward to that.”

After six years in France, with both Toulouse and Toulon, exciting winger Kolbe arrives in Japan with his family, also ready for a new challenge.

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“That’s one of the exciting things about this competition,” added Cane. “You’re playing against a lot of the top Japanese players and a lot of players who come from abroad.”

Cheslin Kolbe and Sam Cane
Cheslin Kolbe and Sam Cane pose in their new uniforms following a press conference for the Japanese rugby side Suntory Sungoliath at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, Tokyo

The new Japan Rugby League One season kicks off on December 9, with fellow New Zealanders Ardie Savea, Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett also amongst the new arrivals.

While South African players are allowed to play abroad and still represent their country at test level, a ruling that has proved successful for the Springboks over the last two world cups, New Zealand players are not afforded the same luxury.

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They players can not represent the All Blacks if they are based at overseas clubs. But Cane’s short team deal means he won’t miss any international games and will be up for selection come June next year, something he and incoming coach Scott Robertson reportedly discussed at length.

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“Playing for the All Blacks, you have to earn that by playing well every week,” said Cane.

“I know the All Blacks coaches will be keeping an eye on some of us boys over here.

“The sole focus is just to play well, try and improve as a rugby player and hopefully have the opportunity of returning to the team again.”

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