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Sam Cane opens up on the Kriel tackle and Rugby World Cup final red card

By Ben Smith
Sam Cane of New Zealand looks dejected at full-time following the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Retiring All Black skipper Sam Cane has given a raw and emotional recount of his red card in the Rugby World Cup final after his tackle on Springboks centre Jesse Kriel.


He described a level of overwhelming shock and disappointment that returns when thinking about what happened, and a huge sense of responsibility for “letting the team down.”

Cane told his story on Episode 2 of the All Blacks: In Their Own Words series, a review of the 2023 season and the ill-fated Rugby World Cup campaign.

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The All Blacks had fallen into a 6-0 deficit and had just returned to 15 men with flanker Shannon Frizell back on the field.

“I know in Test matches it is about regaining momentum and nailing our next moment,” Cane said.

After gaining some key territory, a lineout throw inside the Boks’ 22 from Codie Taylor went array which was picked up by Damian de Allende and shovelled onto Jesse Kriel.

The Springbok centre spun around before running at the All Black captain, which he said caught him “off-guard”.

“Jesse’s done a full U-turn and he ended up running back towards me,” he recalled.

“I was caught off-guard a bit, it was quite an upright tackle. Then sure enough they stop play, yellow card.


“Then the sideline official came over and just said ‘it’s going to be upgraded to a red’.

“Even now just saying those words I feel tension and a sense of shock that I encountered in that moment, hits me again now.”

The moment became even more emotional when Cane locked eyes with his family members, sitting close by in the Stadium.

“All of a sudden I’m in the sin bin chair, look over my shoulder and all of our families are sitting right there.


“Look my parents in the eye, who have supported me for so long and come over to support me, my wife, my sisters, the other boys’ families who you’ve got to know closely over a long period of time.

“Just an overwhelming feeling that I’ve let my teammates down when they needed me the most.”

A rousing half-time speech led to a resurgent second half where they scored the game’s only try and just fell short by one point by 12-11, leaving two opportunities to take the lead on the tee.

Mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka said the team was “standing on the precipice” of writing the “greatest chapter in All Black history” having completely taken control of the game in the second half.

“As a kicker you always dream of those situations, and why some may see it as a high pressure moment, which it is, it’s just an awesome privilege to be in that position,” Mo’unga said.

Mo’unga hit the kick cleanly, expecting the ball to curve back right but the ball stayed dead straight and missed to the right of the posts.

“That still haunts me as a kicker you know. That could’ve changed the whole game,” he said.

Jordie Barrett’s penalty came with seven minutes remaining but again it sailed slightly left, “you just hope that you luck out really and have a pure strike.”


Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV


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Charles 16 days ago

Hopefully Razor will teach us how to tackle legally now!

Steve 16 days ago

Unfortunately, Cane has a bad record of cards so maybe someone needed to teach him how to tackle?

Jon 16 days ago

Similar problem occurred in this weeks final, obvious mitigation ignored. The refs, and to an extent, the fans, have no feel for the speed of the game, refs especially have become numb to the outcome. That is to say they have at least in the North with their sudden uturn towards player safety, thankfully the SH is trying to provide some reason to this and many other issues with the game.

World Rugby knew what was up when it came time for Cane’s herring, there was silence. The records weren’t released to the public for over a month, might have even been two I was waiting, after the committee simply judged Cane was lying, with how he described the situation here, in the hearing.

SadersMan 16 days ago

Never been sold on this guy as he’s missed almost half the tests under Foster due to injury. For me, the RWC QF showed his true class & the RWC GF red card summed up his last 4 years in a nutshell.

That said, if fit & available, I expect Razor to select Cane to compete for a loosie spot. Unleashed & free from the burden of captaincy. Wouldn’t it be great to see him get to the ton & bow out on a high? I’m down with that.

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Mzilikazi 1 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

60 Go to comments
Shaylen 4 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

60 Go to comments
Flankly 6 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

21 Go to comments
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