Richie McCaw’s probable return against the Springboks this week.

Richie McCaw’s probable return against the Springboks this week couldn’t have come at a better time for the All Blacks.

After training fully in Buenos Aires, McCaw is expected to demonstrate his remarkable healing powers when the All Blacks touched down after a 12-hour flight in Johannesburg .

Initially predicted to be out for up to five weeks, the 32-year-old is now on track to confront the Boks at Ellis Park, though he will have to survive full contact training this week.

His likely presence at the scene of the 1995 World Cup final – where the All Blacks haven’t won for 16 years – and ability to approach and influence referees could be vital in the heat of a momentous occasion.

After returning from his six-month sabbatical, McCaw is satisfied with his three tests this year – against Australia and Argentina – but feels he is nowhere near his peak yet.

“I was a bit nervous getting back into it, as you can imagine,” McCaw told Fairfax Media.

“If I’d said before the championship started that I’d play those three games like I did I’d be happy, but not extremely.”

McCaw’s injury-enforced absence and Matt Todd’s surgery has the All Blacks skipper contemplating a healthy diet of rugby between now and the 2015 World Cup.

“Having this injury and missing a few games could potentially mean I play as many games as I can for the rest of this year,” he said. “Then with a guy like Matt Todd being injured I’ll have to make sure I’m on deck at the start of the season [for the Crusaders].

“You get to 12 months time and you’re on the countdown for the World Cup. It’s going to come around pretty quick. You want to play as many games as you can because you don’t know how many you’re going to have left, really.”

McCaw’s comeback is a major boost while injured prop Owen Franks also flew to South Africa despite leaving the field at halftime with a groin strain in Sunday’s 33-15 win over the Pumas.

North Harbour tighthead Ben Afeaki will be called in as cover and Charlie Faumuina would be promoted to start if Franks was not fit.

McCaw’s pending switch from water boy to starting openside also threatens to overshadow Sam Cane’s progress.

“I don’t want to downplay what Sam Cane’s done the last couple of weeks. He’s been fantastic,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. “The other guy is probably the greatest player we’ve ever had so it’ll be nice to have him back on the track. He’s a highly regarded member of the team.”

In his last two tests Cane has silenced the doubters. After laying down a marker by playing on with a nasty head gash against the brutal Boks at Eden Park, he more than backed up that effort in La Plata. It seems cruel to drop him now but that is the reality of playing alongside McCaw.

“The more time you spend in the black jersey the more comfortable you get,” Cane said. “You can’t really be judged off one performance, you’re always trying to go out there and prove yourself.”

Hansen is well aware of the fact the All Blacks have won just three of 13 games at Ellis Park. He knows the hostile environment his side are about to walk into. And he knows the Boks will raise the intensity after clocking off in the second half of their 28-8 win over the Wallabies in Cape Town.

“History tells you it’s a big one but this team is about making its own history,” Hansen said. “It’s just another ground and a place that we need to play well at. The key thing is are we going to play well enough to win it. We know we’re capable of doing it. We’ve got to believe and prepare in that fashion.

“I was surprised the Boks didn’t get more points actually. They were all over them in the first half and then lost their way a little bit in the second. They will be disappointed but, like us, they’re well aware of what has to happen at the weekend and they’ll get up for it in a big way.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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