Kane Hames had a miracle five-month period in 2016 which saw him go from having no Super Rugby contract to making his All Blacks debut.
A powerful scrummager with a love of weightlifting, his first big break didn't come until 2013 – winning a start with Bay of Plenty in the NPC. He did enough to then pique the interest of Maori coach Jamie Joseph, who also signed Hames to the Highlanders in 2014.
But that turned out to be a peak for Hames as injury would then blight him for the next 18 months. He struggled with his knees, needed operations and after he picked up a five-week suspension for punching Dominic Bird in 2015, the Highlanders cooled on him.
They didn't re-sign him for 2016 and because he was still recovering from knee surgery, no other New Zealand team came calling either. He had overseas o ers, but his heart was set on making it to the All Blacks.
But without a contract, he was getting close to having to give up on that and take a deal in France. That was until Pauliasi Manu su ered a seasonending injury in March, rupturing his Achilles in training.
The Chiefs, having already lost tighthead prop Nepo Laulala for the year, drafted Hames and who would know, he played so well that his performances were noticed by the All Blacks.
So when Joe Moody su ered a neck injury, Hames was drafted in as cover for the Rugby Championship. He travelled to Sydney, and when Moody didn’t come right, Hames made his debut o the bench. Incredible. It was a first in the professional age – someone winning a cap when they couldn’t be sure whether they were considered good enough to win a Super Rugby contract.
“Hamesy's a guy who has a lot of self-belief,” said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. “He's come from a background of having to work really hard to get every opportunity he's been given. He's learning his craft as well at this level and it's a big step up from Super Rugby. I think there was a couple of times in the South Africa game where our scrum didn't go well and I think people have focused on the fact that it was him, but I'd dispute that.
“I think scrummaging is about eight people doing their job and there was a couple of times we didn't do that very well. So he'll look to drive that side of his game to another level to keep all you nonbelievers happy, I guess. But the big thing we want him to do is just to keep growing himself.”