Johannesburg – New Zealand captain Richie McCaw will fulfil a boyhood ambition when he leads the All Blacks out in their final Rugby Championship match against South Africa at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The flanker has achieved much in his previous 119 caps, lifting the World Cup trophy in 2011 the crowning moment, but he has one last Everest to climb, beating the Springboks at what New Zealand considers South African rugby's spiritual home.
McCaw was 14 years old when the Springboks defeated the All Blacks in extra time to lift the 1995 World Cup at Ellis Park, a scar that still runs deep in New Zealand rugby.
“Growing up, you heard that this is the place to really test yourself, the reason why they call it Test rugby,” McCaw told reporters on Friday.
“This will be my first test here and the boys and I are pretty excited about it.
“All the guys have played Super Rugby here, but this will be something pretty different and a really big challenge. The atmosphere will be tough and pretty noisy, it always is when we play in South Africa.”
South Africa have, statistically at least, long been the All Blacks' toughest opponent in test rugby.
New Zealand's 58 percent win ratio against the Boks is far below that which they enjoy against any other nation, with Australia next on the list at 70 percent, and their only triumph at Ellis Park in the last 20 years was a 35-32 victory in 1997.
McCaw is returning to lead the side for the first time since he injured his knee against Argentina on September 7 and is confident his fitness will hold in a match he was desperate to participate in.
“I wouldn't push myself to play if I wasn't ready, I have done all I can to get fit and I feel like I am there,” he added.
He is expecting a fast and furious start from the Boks and believes his side will have to match that intensity.
“The first 15 minutes are pretty key to be honest and we expect them to come at us, but hopefully our boys will be on the same level. The Rugby Championship is on the line and we just need to stick to our game-plan and perform.”
South Africa need to score four tries and beat New Zealand by more than seven points to lift the trophy this season. – Reuters