Mighty McCaw hungry for more

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is determined to mark what could be his final game in South Africa with another win against the Springboks, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

McCaw’s Test record speaks for itself. Since 2001, he’s won nine Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship tournaments with the All Blacks. In 2011, he led this team to a World Cup title in New Zealand.

Overall, McCaw has started 133 of his 139 Tests. With McCaw as captain, the All Blacks have won 90 out of 102 Tests (a ratio of 89%).

Legend? The word doesn’t do his sustained excellence, justice.

McCaw will attempt to add another big win to his tally when the All Blacks travel to Ellis Park this Saturday. He boasts a great overall win record against the Boks (75%), while his record in South Africa (61%) confirms that he wins more than he loses in this part of the world.

The clash at Ellis Park could represent a big moment for the 34-year-old flanker. It’s been rumoured that McCaw will hang up his boots after the 2015 World Cup. If that is the case, the Rugby Championship game against the Boks this Saturday will be the last time he plays Test rugby in South Africa.

On Friday, McCaw was mobbed at the All Blacks team hotel by a group of South Africa-based fans. This particular group had driven all the way from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg for a chance to meet McCaw, and to watch the All Blacks compete against their greatest rivals, the Boks, at Ellis Park.

While McCaw said he was humbled by the support, he preferred to focus on what was at stake in that battle with the Boks. The All Blacks view this game as an important challenge before the World Cup in September.

‘We’ve been coming here [to Johannesburg] for the past four years, and whether it's been at Soccer City or Ellis Park, we have considered these games against the Springboks to be the toughest,’ he said. ‘It’s always the most physical, the most intense match [on the calendar]. It’s the game you want to be a part of. And Ellis Park in particular is the ultimate place to play at. We know we have to take it up a level when we come here.’

When pushed to comment about his ‘last game in South Africa’, McCaw admitted it did play a role in his motivation to beat the Boks on Saturday. 

‘I haven’t thought too much about it. But if I can put it this way, I am focused on the coming game and want to win. If this is to be my last game [in South Africa], I want the lasting memory to be one of a win.’

There was some criticism of McCaw and other ageing New Zealand players during the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament. However, since the start of the international season, these senior players have proved their worth. McCaw was particularly impressive in that Test against Samoa in Apia.

The All Blacks captain believes he can still contribute to this team in the bigger matches, and is determined to prove this point against South Africa this Saturday. McCaw said he hopes to inspire his teammates with his own performance.

‘When it’s toughest, that’s when the best players stand up,’ he said. ’It may come down to one moment, and so you keep going, you stay in the game for that moment. It can mean the difference between winning and losing. That's also the way you, as a captain, can inspire those around you.’

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli