New Zealand captain Sam Cane admitted he was feeling “so much hurt” after he was sent off in Saturday’s 12-11 World Cup final defeat by South Africa.
Cane’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Jesse Kriel in the 28th minute of a dramatic clash at the Stade de France was upgraded to red by the bunker review system.
It was the first time a player had been dismissed in a men’s World Cup final and although the All Blacks showed heart to overcome the setback and score through Beauden Barrett, they could not pierce South Africa’s defence again.
“So much hurt right now. It’s actually hard to find the words to explain it,” Cane said.
“It’s hard because you are feeling so much hurt, but at the same time you are so proud of the group in how they fought back.
“We really gave ourselves a good shot of winning that game. I think it speaks volumes of the group as a whole.”
A despondent Cane refused to blame the officials led by referee Wayne Barnes or the bunker review system for a decision that left New Zealand swimming against the tide.
“At the time, I wasn’t even aware (of the head contact). It sort of caught me off guard because of the fact he stepped back,” Cane said.
“But we’ve been at this tournament for two months now and anything around the head has ramifications.
“I’m not here to discuss whether it was right or wrong. It can’t be changed. It’s something unfortunately I am going to have to live with forever.”
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster stood by his skipper and insisted the high tackle was not a red card offence, adding that Siya Kolisi’s challenge on Ardie Savea in the second half that was a yellow only was equally severe.
“We’ve all seen the way Sam has contributed to the game, to our team behind the scenes, and it’s fantastic,” Foster said.
“He’s worthy of being captain of the All Blacks, which is an honour and a privilege, and he has carried that magnificently. I’m incredibly proud of him and proud to coach him.
“There was an intent to wrap and there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of force in the contact.
“The hit on Ardie had a lot of force going into that contact and had a direct contact on the head. The game has got a few issues it has got to sort out. That’s not sour grapes.
“You’ve got two different situations with different variables and one is a red card, one is a yellow card. That’s the game.
“We got the same behaviour from that TMO (Tom Foley) that we got during the Irish series last year. The same TMO. We expected what we got.”
South Africa defended their crown through four Handre Pollard penalties, all of them coming in the first half, to win a third successive knock-out game by a single point.
It lifts them above New Zealand as the most successful side in World Cup history with four titles.
“There aren’t a lot of things going right in our country and we have the privilege to be able to do what we love and inspire people in life, not just sports people,” Kolisi said.
“Where I come from, I couldn’t dream I could be here today. We come from different walks of life. I had my own goals and ambitions.
“I want to look after my family, I want to give back to my community. You need to come and see South Africa to understand.
“When we come together nothing can stop us, not just in sport but also in life.”