All Blacks Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden will co-captain the Chiefs in the expanded 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
The duo take over the leadership role following the departure of Liam Messam, who is in pursuit of sevens Olympic gold in Rio later this year.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie opted to reintroduce the co-captaincy system which has yielded success for the Waikato side in recent years winning back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013. Messam co-captained then alongside Craig Clarke.
Rennie had many options to choose from in terms of experience, but the combination of Cane and Cruden made the most sense.
‘It's probably not a massive surprise,’ said Rennie. ‘We've had that in mind for a long time [combination of Cane and Cruden]. They're both special characters, they're high-quality men and passionate Chiefs men. When I spoke to them about doing the role, they were both very excited.’
The pair boast 121 caps between them since 2011 when Cane made his Super Rugby debut for the side. Cruden made the move from the Hurricanes in 2012, and the 27-year-old understands the role he needs to play as a senior member of the side.
‘Heading into my seventh year of Super Rugby, I'd like to think I'm relatively experienced,’ Cruden said. ‘And with a lot of new faces, I guess that's going to be important, how we lead and how we make the transition as smooth as possible.’
Cane is four years Cruden’s junior, but lacks nothing in terms of Super Rugby experience and is no stranger to captaincy having lead the All Blacks against Namibia at the 2015 World Cup. However, he acknowledges he still has a lot to learn in dealing with referees and is happy to let Cruden take on that role for now.
‘You can lead on the field without being captain but, when things aren't quite going your way, or you might be getting frustrated as a player, you can't afford that to creep into your voice when you're talking with referees,’ Cane said. ‘You're trying to get the best out of each other and work to have a good game, so that's something that will develop … or maybe I'll just send Aaron in.’
The Chiefs 2016 Super Rugby season kicks off on 27 February against the Crusaders in Christchurch.