Rugby's Superman McCaw deserves super fans

JEFF WILSON
Last updated 05:07 31/08/2014
Richie McCaw
Getty
STILL GOT IT: Veteran All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw showed against the Wallabies at Eden Park that he's still capable of competing at the highest level.

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OPINION: It's hard to believe there are still people out there who doubt Richie McCaw. Surely after his command display at Eden Park that nonsense can now be put to rest.

What we should be doing instead of questioning this guy, is appreciating one of our greatest players for what he is.

It's been suggested McCaw will struggle to make it to next year's World Cup. I hope those doubters took note of his performance last weekend.

Yes, there was that early yellow card, but it's indicative of the man that he not only stepped up afterwards and said ‘I made a mistake', but went about rectifying that error for the next 60 minutes on the field.

There are a lot of intangibles about his game - things you don't see because they're not with ball in hand.

All you need do is watch how he plays. There's a beautiful brutality and physicality about how he approaches every aspect of the game, and I'm sure it inspires those around him.

Even more, he's the world's greatest nuisance on a rugby field. When the opposition have to use two or three guys to focus on him at the breakdown, that allows more numbers in the defensive line which in turn allows you to gain physical dominance around the tackle.

There are things about the McCaw game that unless you watch him intently you're going to miss. I know his coaches don't miss them.

He plays with such courage, and puts his body on the line at every opportunity to be that nuisance. Plus, he just doesn't take a night off. Never.

His impact is always there, and to do that in the number of tests he has is why he is rugby's Superman.

Sure, he's had his share of injuries. But that's because of the way he plays the game.

Last Saturday, the All Blacks' performance, their relentless physicality, their intent on attack, their confidence to play in all circumstances and ability to front when he wasn't on the paddock were all a reflection of the man's leadership.

It's not just a player you get with Richie either. One of his greatest attributes as a leader is that he gives his guys the confidence and self-belief to express themselves. Yes, he's going to have his challenges getting through the next 15 months, but there's no reason to think he won't respond the way he's done throughout his career.

As dedicated as he was to lead the All Blacks to success at the last World Cup, he'll be equally as determined next year. He understands the historical significance.

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The best player to compare him to is probably Michael Jones who ended up at No 6 after injuries and time caught up on him. Essentially he reinvented his game.

McCaw, too, has changed with the game's trends. Early in his career he was a fetcher, but recently he's become a more effective ball-carrier because of his increased size.

It's such a physical contest now and he's sacrificed some of those explosive aspects of his repertoire to become that presence at all things contestable.

He's made that adjustment partly out of necessity, but it also enables him to remain the presence he was previously.

He may not be the best player in the All Blacks any more, but he's still the most influential of this generation. When times get tough, when you're in the most brutal of battles, he is simply unwavering.

If the All Blacks are serious about defending the World Cup, McCaw needs to be out on that field.

That brings us nicely to Dan Carter. His biggest challenge is not form - when has it ever been? - but fitness.

He's become injury prone, and that's the dark cloud hovering over him.

Part of it's the way he plays. He's so aggressive, both in the tackle and in carrying. There are no half-measures, and no elements of self-protection.

The reality for him is his able lieutenant now wants to be the little general. And history tells us we've won a World Cup without Dan Carter.

His task is different to Richie's. It's not about reinventing himself, or shaping his game. It's just about getting on the field, because he gives you something rare and valuable - a supreme goalkicker who can play first or second five.

I would love to see him fit and available in England next year because he's a genuine match-winner but also because he provides great cover in key positions.

- Sunday Star Times

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