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'I'm not seeing it that way at all': Sam Cane shoots down journo's suggestion

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The All Blacks are down on wins with just one from their last six tests but captain Sam Cane doesn’t believe they have reached the point to play with a “nothing to lose” mentality.

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As the current Freedom Cup holders, a win at Ellis Park this weekend would see the trophy – contested between New Zealand and South Africa annually – retained for another year and extend their reign, which started back in 2010.

The last time the Springboks held the Freedom Cup was 2009, when they completed a three-game sweep over the All Blacks, but they have not touched the trophy since.

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A win over the favourite Springboks would also get New Zealand’s Rugby Championship campaign back on track and put a dent in the title hopes of South Africa, who will have to travel to Australia for two games against the Wallabies.

When asked if the All Blacks are treating this game as one with nothing to lose, Cane shot down suggestions that they have nothing to play for.

“Nah, I’m not seeing it that way at all,” Cane responded.

“There is a trophy on the line, we are playing at Ellis Park and we are desperate to improve and put up better performances than we are, so there is as much on the line as there has ever been.”

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With reports suggesting this might be Ian Foster’s last game as head coach regardless of the result, there is certainly a different kind of pressure building around the All Blacks, which they have not experience in recent times.

Cane admitted he does feel the weight of a nation, but the only way to deal with it is to reframe it into a positive.

“You certainly feel it, it’s impossible not too,” he said.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. It’s always part of being an All Black, but without a doubt it’s extra pressure.

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“You can see it as a burden or just try and embrace it and see it as an extra challenge. I think that is the only way you can view it, use it as a positive, as funny as that sounds.”

The All Blacks are using last week’s loss as motivation to improve in areas like the breakdown, where Malcolm Marx scuppered them numerous times with three turnovers.

Cane said the team would much rather be in South Africa with a chance to atone for the defeat and improve in those areas instead of sitting on a plane heading back home.

“I said to our team in the sheds after the game, as disappointing and as much as it hurt, there is nowhere else we would rather be as a team than to be here and have another crack at them,” he said.

“If we were to be on a plane home and have that to dwell about, it would’ve been pretty tough.

“To be able to get back on the horse straight away and focus on having another crack at them, it’s hugely exciting.

“Without a doubt some of the breakdown work is our area of focus.”

The All Blacks were again plagued by a slow start in Mbombela, with back-to-back infringements at scrum time handing South Africa the chance to put pressure on early with possession in a good attacking zone.

The home side eventually scored in the eighth minute after a high ball was dropped, which extended the All Blacks’ run of not scoring the first try in a test to seven matches.

The last time they scored the first try was against Italy in Rome on last year’s end-of-year tour.

“There is no way we want to be starting a test match like that,” Cane said.

“We had the first scrum and gave away a free kick, and then they took a scrum and they won a penalty. Things like that affect the momentum, particularly early on in a test match, so we’ve just got to do our best to control those moments.

“Execute our small roles, whether that’s at a breakdown, whether that is a ball carry, all the little parts of footy.

“All it is is executing under pressure and if you can do that, we can put ourselves in the right part of the field.”

Cane said being in preparation mode helps the side focus on processes and not dwell on potential outcomes.

“When we are in camp like this, the week is so structured, everything is focused around ways to get better and improve,” he said.

“When you constantly have that mindset to look and find areas to get better at, you don’t allow yourself, or if you do find yourself thinking about things like that, you check yourself and pull yourself back to focus on what is important and what you can control.

“And just put all your energy and focus into that because we all know within the team in professional sport, if you start focusing on the outcome, it’s always the process and the little steps that go into that, that get the outcome you are after.

“No point doing it the other way round.”

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