All Blacks call on war hero for motivation

2015-10-23 19:30
Richie McCaw (Gallo Images)

Twickenham - The All Blacks have turned to a war hero for inspiration ahead of their Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown against South Africa on Saturday (17:00 SA time).

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With Saturday's crunch match at Twickenham expected to be filled with military symbolism and a trench warfare mentality on both sides, Victoria Cross winner Willie Apiata has joined the All Blacks camp.

Apiata was awarded the highest British Commonwealth honour for bravery when he carried a gravely wounded comrade across a battlefield, under fire, to safety in Afghanistan.

"He's a special New Zealander," All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said on the eve of the Test.

"He's a good man to have around and the boys enjoy hearing a few of his stories and calming words.

"If you talk about being in pressure environments, he's probably been in environments that are a damn sight more pressured than we end up with."

The All Blacks have maintained close military links in recent years.

Before a French Test in 2000, then captain Anton Oliver led his side to a Belgian cemetery, the burial site of 1905 captain Dave Gallaher who was killed at the Battle of Passchendale in 1917.

Apiata, a former corporal in the SAS, was also invited into the All Blacks camp before they beat France in the 2011 World Cup final.


South Africa:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Victor Matfield, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein

New Zealand:

15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody

Substitutes 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Sonny Bill Williams

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