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'I'm not sure he's up to it': Ex-Bok heaps pressure on Sam Cane

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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Former Springboks second row Victor Matfield has heaped the pressure on All Blacks skipper Sam Cane ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener in Nelspruit. Ian Foster’s New Zealand have arrived in South Africa with just one win in their last five outings, a run of results that has attracted an avalanche of criticism in recent weeks.

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In the days following the 1-2 series loss to Ireland, there was even speculation that Cane, the All Blacks skipper, would be relieved of his duties after his pack of forwards failed to deliver the expected results.

In the end, Cane was named by Foster as the captain for the two-game trip to South Africa but that vote of confidence hasn’t ended the questions over the current form of the 30-year-old back-rower, Matfield becoming the latest to question what has been going on with a seasoned player who has been on the Test scene since his 2012 debut.

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Speaking to BokSquad, the official supporters’ club of South African rugby, Matfield, the SuperSport commentator and analyst, said: “The New Zealand defence has been one of the slowest in terms of coming off the line. That is what gave the Ireland attack a lot of opportunity over the course of that series.

“If South Africa was playing against Ireland, for example, they would come off the line a lot quicker to shut down the options. Ireland would probably struggle to get more than one or two passes away. As a result, Ireland would probably be forced to kick a lot more.

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“New Zealand don’t have the best defence at the moment. The Boks can run at them – and I’m not talking about running from deep within our own half. If we get into their half, we can build through our forwards and we can come round the corner. Once we set the platform, we can play a few options. That is how you can build momentum against them.

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“They are still struggling to decide on their best loose-forward combination. Sam Cane is the captain, but I’m not sure he’s up to it at the moment – in terms of getting over the ball, stealing the ball, slowing it down… all of that contributes to a team’s defence. They are not really stopping the opposition from getting quick ball. They are allowing the opposition to get a quick recycle at the ruck and to launch a multiphase attack.”

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