In typical modest fashion, Richie McCaw's first response was to thank his team for helping him achieve 100 test wins yesterday.
Having just completed a clean sweep of the inaugural Rugby Championship with a comprehensive 32-16 victory over the Springboks in Soweto, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen led the tributes to his captain, the heart and soul of his side.
McCaw, the first and only player to reach a century of wins, has tasted defeat just 12 times in his coveted All Blacks career - five each to Australia and South Africa and once to England and France, respectively.
"That's very special. I don't think that's been achieved by anyone before him," Springboks captain Jean de Villiers reluctantly stated.
McCaw's unique ability to endure pain was typified during the Rugby World Cup. He carried a debilitating foot injury through most of the tournament and, against the Boks, again competed ferociously, this time on one good leg.
"That's pretty spectacular so congratulations cobber," Hansen said to McCaw.
"We've got a guy that's won 100 test matches because he's got mental strength and can go into those dark places that you have to go to perform over-and-over again."
Sporting a nasty shiner that closed over his right eye from a clash with Owen Franks, McCaw's head was bowed; he briefly smiled at his coach before deflecting praise to his team-mates.
That almost bashful nature sums up why McCaw is considered the greatest All Black, certainly of the modern era.
Despite his achievements he remains humble and realises no-one is bigger than the team. Those are very rare qualities for someone of his stature.
As Hansen would attest, there is no-one more vital to the All Blacks than the 31-year-old openside flanker.
"It's definitely pretty special," McCaw said after his 75th game as skipper.
"I don't often put personal stuff ahead of what you're trying to do out on the field but after a performance like that, I'm thankful just to be out there. To get to 100 wins you've got to be apart of a special team to be able to do that.
"I've been lucky to be with a good bunch of men over a long period of time and today was another example of the fun you can have when you get the right result."
It came as no surprise to Crusaders team-mate Kieran Read that McCaw was uncomfortable with the accolades.
"That's just the man he is. The way he does things it's all about the team, that's a great characteristic to have.
"When you look at the win ratio he has it's phenomenal. He does it every week. He's a big part of why the All Blacks have won so many."
As a player, McCaw has evolved his game. He is now a form of hybrid loose-forward with a range of skills, but as Read explained, his inspirational leadership is the most valuable asset.
"It's hard to think he's had a bad game across his career, from when I was watching or playing with him,"
Read said. "It's incredibly motivating for us as a group to see him leading us that way and still
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is Richie McCaw now the greatest All Black of all time?