Celebrity News

All Blacks captain Sam Cane and wife Harriet's baby joy

The rugby hero spills the beans on his big family news and the realities of touring during a pandemic

By Sophie Neville
All Blacks captain Sam Cane has experienced many highs in his playing career. World Cup victories, Super Rugby wins and hard-earned comebacks from a series of brutal injuries. But nothing can compare to the excitement he and his wife Harriet are feeling as they announce their most wonderful news yet – they're having a baby!
"It's pretty unbelievable," Sam beams as he speaks exclusively to Woman's Day via Zoom, fresh out of MIQ after seven weeks away with the All Blacks. He and Harriet have kept their news largely to themselves until now, but with Sam home and Harriet almost 20 weeks pregnant, they're thrilled to finally share it.
"I don't think I realised quite how badly I wanted it until it happened," says Sam, 29.
Leaving a pregnant Harriet at home while he was on tour was a tug of love.
"We'd always been open about wanting children, but it's quite funny – you go from talking about having kids one day and suddenly… Boom, it's a reality! We're just so stoked and incredibly grateful that it happened so quickly for us."
The baby news tops off a big year for the Chiefs star, who endured months of rehabilitation after shoulder reconstruction and pectoral muscle reattachment surgery at the start of 2021. Joining the All Blacks for the final leg of their Northern Hemisphere tour in October was a huge milestone, but Sam admits leaving Harriet behind felt harder than ever.
"It really gave me a new appreciation of what the other boys in the team go through when they have to leave their families," shares Sam, quickly noting that his seven weeks away paled in comparison
to the 15 weeks most of his teammates were gone for.
"It definitely felt different knowing Harriet was pregnant, but at the same time, it was such a rewarding and proud moment to be able to get back out there to play for the All Blacks again. It was exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing."
May can't come soon enough for the excited couple.
Sam and Harriet, who first met in a bar six years ago, are speaking to us at the stunning home they built together on a lifestyle block just outside of Hamilton. On the wall behind them is a striking
stag's head from Sam's family farm, the sun is streaming in and their miniature schnauzer Willow is snoozing at their feet.
The couple smile as they recall the day back in August that they discovered 25-year-old Harriet was pregnant. They'd only recently decided it was time to start trying for a baby and they never expected it would happen so fast.
"I had taken a test a week earlier that had come back negative, so I didn't actually have high hopes," says Harriet, a kindergarten teacher. "But then the line appeared very faintly and we just stood there in shock, watching it get darker and clearer. I was totally shocked and was jumping around with happiness."
"He can't keep his hand off my tummy," says Harriet – and besotted Sam's already bought the beer-themed booties!
"We were so stoked," continues Sam. "We just couldn't believe how lucky we were. It all felt quite surreal."
The delighted pair couldn't resist phoning their families almost immediately, knowing they'd be just as thrilled as they were. Sam's parents Kathy and Malcolm live in Reporoa, while Harriet's mum Dianne is in Te Awamutu and her dad Andrew's down the road in Hamilton. As the first grandchild for both sides of the family, excitement levels are through the roof.
"It's been so fun watching how happy and excited everyone is," tells Sam. "My nana has already started knitting – she's made a little beanie and cardigan – and my parents have been testing out their new names, Nana and Pop, to see if it suits them."
Having both grown up on farms, Sam and Harriet hope to give their own children the kind of free-range childhood they experienced. Being connected to animals and the land is important to both of them.
"It's all that stuff like making forts and helping Dad with the farm – I can't imagine a better way to grow up," enthuses Sam, whose rugby skills were honed on the family's paddocks.
It won't be surprising if their little one turns out to have a healthy dose of competitive spirit. While Sam is one of this country's most successful rugby players, Harriet is also an accomplished sports-woman. She's run more than her fair share of half-marathons and, in the past year alone, has completed two half-Iron Man events. Fortunately, her morning sickness has been mild and she's been able to keep up with her fitness.
"I had one week in the first trimester where I was practically bedridden, but other than that, I've been fine," she says. "I know many women have it far harder, so I'm very grateful."
Sam flew out to join the ABs camp when Harriet was 10 weeks pregnant, which meant he missed the all-important 12-week scan, but Harriet filmed the experience and sent it to her husband on the other side of the world.
Watching their baby on the screen together over video call was a special moment for both of them. "It was amazing to see that little heart beating away," he recalls. "It all felt very real then."
Touring abroad in a COVID world was a very different experience, with the team operating under strict restrictions. Players were allowed out of the hotel for training only or before 8am and after 8pm.
"We all knew that if one of us contracted COVID, it was likely it would spread quickly through the team and that would've been disastrous," explains Sam, who made his ABs debut in 2012. "If you did go out, you almost had to assume that everyone had it. In Paris, we went to the Eiffel Tower at night, ordered a crêpe and saw it all lit up – that was cool. In Rome, instead of exploring on foot, we did an open-top bus tour."
It was during a visit to the iconic Guinness factory in Dublin where Sam made his initial baby purchase – a pair of beer-themed booties!
"I couldn't resist them," he smiles. "That's the first present I have bought."
The rugby star has had testing times with injuries, but Harriet has always been by his side.
When he arrived back home at the start of December, he was blown away by his wife's baby bump. "He was like, 'Oh, my God, what happened?!'" laughs Harriet, who welcomed him back with a huge feast of pancakes. "He can't keep his hands off my tummy."
While a first baby can be daunting, Sam has full confidence in Harriet thanks to her work as an early childhood teacher. "She's amazing with kids," he says, quickly adding that if her relationship with their pup Willow is anything to go by, she'll likely be a total softie with the new baby. "She can't help herself. She rewards bad behaviour because Willow is so cute."
"It's true – she sleeps on our bed and I share my food with her," Harriet admits with a sheepish grin. "She sits there and stares at me with those puppy-dog eyes, and I can't say no. I just give in."
Harriet tells us that Sam will be a wonderful father. He has a natural ease with kids and when he visits her at work, the little ones flock to him. "I get a bit jealous, actually. He's really warm and just seems to click with them."
The couple love surprises, so they've opted not to find out the sex of their unborn baby in advance. Both have a sneaking feeling it might be a girl, though – and that a big family may well be on the cards, with Sam happily confessing he'd love a son one day to share his love of fishing, rugby and golf.
"Hey, girls can do those things!" points out Harriet.
"That's true," he says. "I genuinely don't mind if we get a boy or a girl – all that matters is it's a healthy and happy baby. But I think most guys would agree the idea of having a son is pretty special."
Suddenly our chat is interrupted with the ping of a message popping up on Sam's phone. It's his COVID test results, which will determine whether his three-day home isolation (following the seven days he spent in an MIQ hotel) can come to an end.
Harriet and Sam wed in Wānaka in 2019.
"Yes, it's negative!" he says, a big grin spreading across his face. "Life can get back to normal now."
With the all-clear, Sam and Harriet can pack up the car and head to Mount Maunganui, where they recently bought a holiday home. After that, they're to head south to hike the Milford Track, with the rest of summer set to be spent relaxing on the beach, swimming in the ocean and catching up with friends.
Sam and Harriet want to fit in as much quality time together before he joins his Chiefs teammates back at training at the end of January and Harriet returns to work. Then the countdown until when they finally meet their little bundle in May begins.
"Hopefully, the baby will make it nice and easy on us by coming early in the week, so I don't miss rugby at the weekend!" jokes Sam.
"Nah, I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's going to be incredible. I just can't wait."

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