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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.”

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