McCaw determined to lead resurgence
August 19, 2009
New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw talks to the press ahead of his side's crucial Tri-Nations clash in Sydney © Getty Images
New Zealand captain Richie McCaw is confident his side can conjure a turnaround in their Tri-Nations fortunes against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
The All Blacks enter the latest Bledisloe Cup clash against their old rivals on the back of two defeats at the hands of South Africa and in need of a victory to keep their Tri-Nations hopes alive.
New Zealand have not lost three Tests in-a-row since their annus horribilis in 1998 - a year in which they suffered a total of five successive defeats in the battle for southern hemisphere supremacy. And this weekend they face a Wallabies side looking to end their own two-game losing streak and keep their own Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup dreams alive.
A year ago, with McCaw absent through injury, the All Blacks lost to South Africa in Dunedin, then crossed the Tasman for a 19-34 defeat in Kiwi coach Robbie Deans' first Test against his homeland. But McCaw returned at Eden Park to inspire a 39-10 victory and spark a nine-match winning streak which included a second grand slam tour in four years.
The gloom returned this year, partly thanks to the absence of key men McCaw and Daniel Carter, as they lost to France, scraped past the Wallabies then lost twice to the Springboks. With Carter back for the first time in 2009, McCaw was excited about their chance to revive their fortunes at ANZ Stadium where they've lost three of their last four tests.
"Last year we lost two in a row, the guys were pretty desperate to get it right which we managed to do and it's exactly the same this year," McCaw said. "We're up against a team that's in the same boat so that's going to make for a pretty good test with two pretty desperate teams.
"It's not one of the nicest situations to be in but you'll see how good guys are to get themselves back up and performing."
Carter had slotted back into the side like he'd never been away, McCaw said. The key in recent days had been keeping a lid on the excitement after two high-octane training sessions, still several days out from kickoff.
Henry's paint-stripping team talk last week didn't need to be followed up by more ranting and raving in Sydney, according to McCaw. The talismanic skipper felt as responsible as anyone for their South African struggles after his early-season period on the sidelines, and took it upon himself to lead the way here.
"When you're out there it almost hurts more because you know you weren't doing it right. I know my performances personally weren't as good as I would have liked. That gives you a real want to go out and put things right."'
The fallout from South Africa saw the benching of frontliners Rodney So'oialo (for Kieran Read) and Ma'a Nonu (for Luke McAlister) yesterday. The in-form Read admitted he was surprised to usurp So'oialo, with lineout strength a key component in his elevation.
"It's always tough when you take over from someone, but in my role I've got to do what I can for the team," he said. "Rodney's been pretty good and we get together quite a lot, so he's still helping me out. He's still a great player and he'll add a lot off bench."