South Africa v New Zealand, Rugby Championship
McCaw out to silence Ellis Park crowd
October 4, 2013
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will become the most prolific player in the tournament's history © Getty Images
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says withstanding the expected opening onslaught from South Africa will be crucial to winning their Rugby Championship Test in Johannesburg. The clash of the world champion New Zealanders and world No.2 Springboks, playing at their traditional stronghold of Ellis Park, is one of the most anticipated Tests of the 2013 rugby calendar.
While the All Blacks have won eight from eight Tests this year, South Africa have won 10 of their past 11. Their sole loss came against New Zealand in Auckland three weeks ago when Springboks hooker Bismarck du Plessis was sent off midway through a controversial 29-15 defeat.
The All Blacks haven't played at the ground which sits 1700m above sea level for nine years. Of the starting team, only hooker Andrew Hore played in the 2004 Test at Ellis Park which New Zealand lost 40-26, conceding five tries in the process. McCaw says it will be vital to shut down the influence of a 65,000-strong crowd with a strong start.
"I think that first 15 minutes is going to be pretty key to the game, to be honest," McCaw said. "I'm pretty sure it's going to be pretty noisy. It would be nice if we could silence them a bit."
Most Tests: Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship
McCaw missed the Auckland Test and last week's 33-15 defeat of Argentina in La Plata because of a knee injury. He says he is fully recovered and set to take part in what should be a colossal battle for the gain line between two world-class forward packs.
The Springboks received some positive news on Friday when centre JJ Englebrecht was cleared to start after overcoming a leg muscle injury. They require a rare dominant win over the All Blacks to win the Rugby Championship title on points differential. They must score four tries and deny New Zealand a losing bonus point. McCaw is unsure how hard the hosts will pursue that equation.
"If it's anything like how we'll approach it, the first thing is to go out and perform and win the game," he said. "Even if the Rugby Championship wasn't on the line, it would still be the same battle because of the pride these two teams have."
The Test will see McCaw become the most prolific player in the history of the 18-year Sanzar international series, which was formerly the Tri-Nations before Argentina joined in 2012. McCaw is level on 48 Tests with former Wallabies captain George Gregan, one ahead of All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu.
Follow live text commentary of the Test between South Africa and New Zealand on Saturday, October 5 from 3pm (GMT) , 1am (AEST, October 6), 4am (NZDT, October 6)