McCaw is a big loss for NZ – Meyer
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said the loss of Richie McCaw for the All Blacks would be a “big blow” to the team ahead of this weekend’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship showdown at Eden Park in Auckland.
McCaw was ruled out of the match after sustaining a medial ligament injury against Argentina last Saturday and will miss four to five weeks of action as he recovers.
The irony that this is the fourth consecutive test match where an opposition captain has been injured and will not face the Boks, has not been lost on the Boks.
Already in this year’s Rugby Championship Argentina lost Juan Fernandez Lobbe for both games against the Boks while Australian captain James Horwill was ruled out on the Tuesday before the Boks’ big win in Brisbane.
Now McCaw is out and will be replaced by Sam Cane with Kieran Reid – widely rated as the best No 8 in world rugby – taking over the captaincy for the match.
Meyer said that McCaw would be a huge loss for the All Blacks, but he was sure they wouldn’t be weakened by it.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Richie, probably one of the greatest players to ever play the game and I’ve said it a few times, he is a great player. I also know what it would mean to us to lose Jean (de Villiers).
"They’ve still got great leaders – guys like Kieran Reid and others – but there is only one Richie McCaw and it will be a big blow for them,” the Bok coach said on Monday in Auckland.
McCaw’s play may not be the same these days as in times past, but it will be his on-field presence, the way he manages to manipulate referees and the infringements he endlessly seems to get away with, that will be missed by the All Blacks.
Yet, they will still be a strong side, and are still massive favourites to continue their record against the Boks on Saturday at Eden Park, the ground where they have not lost a match since 1994 and the same ground where they lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 2011.
As if the Boks needed a reminder, the New Zealand Rugby Union scheduled a photo session on Monday at Eden Park to show off the four Rugby Union World Cups they currently hold.
New Zealand are the holders of both Men’s and Women’s Rugby World Cup trophies in the more traditional form of the game, as well as Sevens.
Meyer said that while they may be the underdogs, the Boks won’t change anything in their preparation just because McCaw is not there.
“You still have to prepare for the same team and the same way of play. This week we want to focus on the way we want to play, we definitely want to take it to the next level. I truly believe this is our ultimate challenge and tougher than we have had before.
"It is a great challenge and I love being in New Zealand. I can’t wait to get onto the field. We know we would probably be underdogs, but we like that tag and play well under that tag, so I can’t wait that we get going.”
While Matt Todd has been brought into the squad, Sam Cane is likely to start at openside and contest the breakdown. With McCaw out, Meyer says in playing ability New Zealand don’t lose too much in this regard.
“One thing I know is the in New Zealand rugby has some of the best openside flankers around,” Meyer said.
“He is a quality player and every single opensider in New Zealand rugby is quality as well. They’ve won a lot of games without Richie as well so they won’t change their game-plan.
"We know what to expect, we know the breakdown will be war, especially away from home, especially in New Zealand. Like I said there are a lot of great openside flankers in this country.”
Either way, the Boks know it will be a battle on Saturday, and even though they arrive with nine consecutive wins and a massive confidence boost from their week in Brisbane, they know this is the week that matters.