Returning to a long-held norm that was curiously missing last season, utilising co-captains at the Chiefs is all about sharing the load for incumbent All Blacks skipper Sam Cane.
It was a departure from the captaincy norms in Chiefs country when Cane was named as the sole skipper of the Waikato-based franchise last season, ditching the use of co-captains for the first time in nine years.
Seen at the time as one of the first big imprints of the Warren Gatland era, it also timed in with Cane’s first full season as All Blacks captain.
The 29-year old had been Chiefs co-captain since 2015, sharing alongside the likes of Brodie Retallick, Aaron Cruden, Liam Messam and Charlie Ngatai.
New interim head coach Clayton McMillan signalled back in January that the Chiefs would look to re-implement the use of co-captains this season under his tenure, with easing the load on Cane being one of the primary factors behind the decision.
Discussions were had about Cane letting go of the Chiefs captaincy altogether, but keeping sharp on leadership skills and remaining in a role of responsibility, all be it in an eased fashion, was the direction the 29-year-old wanted to take in 2021.
“I see the Chiefs captaincy as a role I enjoy and it gives me a chance to stay sharp in my leadership skills,” Cane said
“It’s about getting used to those responsibilities of being a captain full time rather than not having those duties here and having to get used to them again at the next level”.
Joining Cane is Brad Weber, who McMillan concluded was the obvious choice given his experience, standing within the leadership group, and time spent as regular stand-in Chiefs skipper in recent seasons.
“Brad was the obvious choice because he has a huge amount of respect within the team,” McMillan said on Tuesday.
“He’s a current All Black who commands his starting position and we really felt that Sam really needed some support given how arduous his role as All Black captain can be both on and off the field, so we hoped that sharing his responsibilities here at the Chiefs will be good for the team”.
Weber, a mainstay in the Chiefs since 2014 who re-signed with the franchise for another season last year, doesn’t see much change in his elevation to now holding captaincy credentials on an official basis.
The Chiefs have confirmed halfback Brad Weber will join All Blacks captain Sam Cane as co-captain of the Chiefs for 2021.https://t.co/knJs2hur9k
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 22, 2021
“To be honest I don’t see a hell of a lot changing because I’m used to leading in behind Sam,” Weber said.
“We bounce ideas off each other leadership-wise and for me it will be about taking on a bit more responsibility with the outside stuff like talking to referees, dealing with media, and any other sort of load around the leadership group.”
Just who speaks for the team on the field will be partly determined by the referee on match day, but thanks to both familiarity and a good working relationship, the Chiefs don’t anticipate any issues determining who takes the mantle, especially when it comes to utilising the new captain’s challenge.
“It might depend on the referee and I know in the past some of them only like to deal with one player,” Cane said.
“I would like to think that because we’ve been around long enough and are reasonably calm and collected on the field, the referees will respect that and know we won’t be speaking with too much emotion and won’t be going to them with issues unless we feel they’re having a direct impact on us playing the game”.
As the new Super Rugby Aotearoa season looms large on the horizon, a former All Black has named a 'Hype XV' made up of players to take note of over the coming weeks. #SuperRugbyAotearoa https://t.co/nwGOic1rFx
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 23, 2021
With a bye in week one of Super Rugby Aotearoa, the Chiefs will get an opportunity to rest and recover from a busy pre-season.
On the much-talked about injury front, a few niggles were reported this week, with Damian McKenzie (foot) and Pita Gus Sowakula sitting out training.
“We’ve picked up a couple of niggles, but it’s because of the nature of our preseason training,” McMilllan said.
“We’ve had a big overload knowing that we had the bye in week one so the team will be heading off tomorrow to take a few days away and freshen up and I don’t expect any of those who are sitting on the sideline will be out of commission for too long.”
The Chiefs kick their season into gear on March 5 when they play host to the Highlanders at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.
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