Richie McCaw relishes Ellis Park challenge with Rugby Championship on the line
Flanker ready to front up to South Africa in their spiritual home to take home the title
Richie McCaw poses during the New Zealand captain’s run at Ellis Park. It will be the flanker’s first game at the ground on Saturday. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
The flanker has achieved much in his previous 119 caps, lifting the World Cup trophy in 2011 the crowning moment, but he has one last Everest to climb, beating the Springboks at what New Zealand considers South African rugby’s spiritual home.
McCaw was 14 years old when the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in extra time to lift the 1995 World Cup at Ellis Park, a scar that still runs deep in New Zealand rugby.
“Growing up, you heard that this is the place to really test yourself, the reason why they call it Test rugby,” McCaw said. “This will be my first Test here and the boys and I are pretty excited about it.
“All the guys have played Super Rugby here, but this will be something pretty different and a really big challenge. The atmosphere will be tough and pretty noisy, it always is when we play in South Africa.”
South Africa have, statistically at least, long been the All Blacks’ toughest opponent in Test rugby. New Zealand’s 58 per cent win ratio against the Boks is far below that which they enjoy against any other nation and their only triumph at Ellis Park in the last 20 years was a 35-32 victory in 1997.
Fast and furious
McCaw is returning to lead the side for the first time since he injured his knee against Argentina on September 7th and is confident his fitness will hold in a match he was desperate to participate in.He is expecting a fast and furious start from the Boks and believes his side will have to match that intensity.
“The first 15 minutes are pretty key to be honest and we expect them to come at us, but hopefully our boys will be on the same level. ”
South Africa need to score four tries and beat New Zealand by more than seven points to lift the trophy this season.
South Africa centre JJ Englebrecht came through training unscathed yesterday and will start. He had been suffering with a contusion to his quad muscle picked up in last weekend’s 28-8 victory over Australia and was unsure of selection.
SOUTH AFRICA: Z Kirchner; W le Roux, J J Engelbrecht, J de Villiers (capt), B Habana; M Steyn, F du Preez; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, J Kruger, F Louw, W Alberts, D Vermeulen. Replacements: A Strauss, G Steenkamp, C Oosthuizen, F van der Merwe, S Kolisi, R Pienaar, P Lambie, J Serfontein.
NEW ZEALAND: I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; A Cruden, A Smith; T Woodcock, A Hore, C Faumuina, B Retallick, S Whitelock, L Messam, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Replacements: D Coles, W Crockett, B Franks, S Luatau, S Cane, T Kerr-Barlow, B Barrett, C Piutau.
Referee: N Owens (Wales).