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Chiefs captain Sam Cane eyes head-to-head clash with Waratahs star Michael Hooper

By AAP
(Photos / Getty Images)

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Chiefs skipper Sam Cane says it’s silly to assume that Australia’s domestic rugby teams will again be easybeats as the sides converge on Melbourne for the inaugural Super Round of the competition.

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Cane, who is also the All Blacks captain, will lead his team against the NSW Waratahs on Friday night at AAMI Park with the game the first between teams from each country this year after COVID-19 and travel bans forced the draw to be reworked.

There will be a triple header on Saturday at the venue, starting with the Super W final between the Waratahs and Fijiana Drua, and two games on Sunday.

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The other Friday night match between Moana Pasifika and Western Force had to be postponed with the Perth team hit by COVID-19.

Last year in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, which followed domestic competitions, the five Australian teams only managed two wins from 25 games but Cane believes those results were a one-off.

“I think it’d be pretty silly to assume it would be similar to last year,” Cane told AAP.

“I mean, throughout the history of Super Rugby, that was a little bit of an anomaly.

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“So we won’t be taking this game lightly by any means and I don’t think any of the Kiwis sides will either.”

With the Waratahs sitting fifth and the Chiefs sixth, both with five wins and three losses, the match should provide an accurate gauge of the form of the Australians against the Kiwis.

Cane said the improved defence of the Waratahs, who failed to win a game last season, was notable.

“A squad with good character can bounce back and that’s what we’ve seen from the Waratahs,” said Cane, who was rested from the Chiefs’ last round victory over Moana Pasifika.

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“They’ve had some good performances so we’re under no illusions how tough it’s going to be.

“Statistically it looks like they’ve got one of the best defensive statistics in some of the key areas and some guys who are really good at getting over the ball and winning turnovers.”

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One of “those guys” is Cane’s long-time test rival, Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper, who was integral to the Waratahs’ last round win over the Force.

Hooper spent the 2021 Super season playing in Japan with his start this year delayed by a foot injury.

“He’s a class player and has been for a long time, and even the way he came back from from playing in Japan to Super Rugby without missing a beat was was really impressive,” Cane said.

“Every time you go out you want to play your best and there’s little external motivators … you certainly look forward to those sorts of match-ups.

“You keep an eye on where each other is but often these sort of battles are won by the team that dominates the game as a whole.”

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