Rugby Championship

McCaw back to lead All Blacks

2013-10-02 17:37
Richie McCaw (Getty Images)

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Johannesburg - Inspirational skipper Richie McCaw has returned to New Zealand's starting lineup on Wednesday for the Rugby Championship finale in South Africa after recovering from injury to play his 120th test and first at Ellis Park.

McCaw's recall in place of Sam Cane at openside flanker was one of two changes to their 15 for the world champion All Blacks, who are on the brink of a 12th southern hemisphere title in 18 seasons and have won seven of their last eight games against the Springboks.

While McCaw had recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the recent wins over the Springboks at home and Argentina away, Owen Franks was ruled out by a groin injury and replaced at tighthead prop by Charlie Faumuina. Franks' brother, Ben, moved up to the bench alongside Cane and hooker Dane Coles. Andrew Hore will again wear the No. 2 jersey.

New Zealand needs only a losing bonus point on Saturday to clinch the title, but is back at near full-strength and instead focusing on finishing with a perfect six wins from six in the championship. South Africa must win and score four tries and deny the All Blacks a bonus point to steal the title.

The All Blacks have said throughout the week that they are excited and not intimidated by the chance to play at Johannesburg's Ellis Park, the 65,000-seat inner-city cauldron where New Zealand lost the 1995 World Cup final and has won only one of four games since.

"Playing the Springboks at Ellis Park is a challenge that this team is really looking forward to," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "We know the South Africans will come at us with their physical game but to win the championship they will have to do that by scoring four tries so we are expecting more ball movement than we have seen in the past.

"So the answer is pretty simple for us — we will have to match their physicality and be very accurate with our execution across the park, both on attack and defensively."

While the 21-year-old Cane impressed when he stepped in, McCaw's vast experience and leadership skills, and his cleverness at the breakdown, will be a valuable addition.

"I don't think it'll make a difference to the approach of our game but clearly he's our captain," said assistant coach Ian Foster. "The young fella there (Cane) did a fantastic job last week so I don't think it's going to change much in the way we go about it, but going into a big game it's great to have everyone on deck and available and it gives us more options."

Winger Ben Smith, with seven tries in this year's competition, is one away from breaking the single tournament record he shares with South Africa wing Bryan Habana and former All Blacks fullback Christian Cullen.

Kick-off for Saturday's crucial encounter is at 17:05.



15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht/Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16, Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein/Juan de Jongh

New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau


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