Richie McCaw has put the historic achievement of breaking the All Blacks appearances record out of his mind as he focuses on leading New Zealand to victory against South Africa in Saturday's Rugby Championship.
At Ellis Park, the New Zealand captain will make his 134th appearance in the celebrated black shirt – 133 Tests and an international against the Barbarians – to break the 43-year-old mark he currently shares with the legendary Colin Meads. Yet the 33-year-old McCaw says reaching the milestone is not what excites him about an encounter at one of the toughest venues in world rugby.
“Afterwards, you reflect on those things but to play a match here at Ellis Park against the Boks is excitement enough and what I am looking forward to the most,” McCaw told reporters, as he pondered the prospect of the All Blacks protecting their current 22-game unbeaten run. “The atmosphere can be pretty daunting but it’s also the type of atmosphere you want to play in and perform well.”
New Zealand arrived on Monday from Argentina, where they claimed the Rugby Championship title last weekend, with McCaw happy that the squad are feeling no ill-effects of the long journey across time zones. “Everyone is in reasonable shape. You always remind each other what the challenge is,” the flanker said. “Most guys are aware of that and are pretty keen to perform well tomorrow. “To play the Springboks here at Ellis Park is one of the ultimate challenges of Test rugby and the excitement in the squad reflects that.”
Heavy rain fell and thunder crashed around the ground as McCaw spoke on Friday but with dry conditions expected for the match, he says he expects the Springboks to attack with ball in hand, as they did in the 28-10 victory over Australia in Cape Town last Saturday. That will create a different contest from the four-point victory for the All Blacks over the Springboks in the wet of Wellington earlier in the campaign.
"Look at last week, they were keen to use the ball when they got the opportunity," McCaw said. "In Wellington, it was a bit greasy but they still showed intent. I don't think too much will change. "We are hoping for a dry day and then both teams will be keen to have a crack but you can only play what you get given by the opposition and if you can't get the ball because you are being dominated up front then its hard to play a running game." SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (capt), Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield, Marcell Coetzee, Teboho Mohoje, Duane Vermeulen/Schalk Burger. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger/Warren Whiteley, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, P Pietersen. NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read. Replacements: Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Liam Messam, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty.