McCaw returns for deciding match
October 3, 2013
McCaw is helped from the field during the match against Argentina at Hamilton in early September © Getty Images
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will return from a knee injury to play his 120th Test in one of two starting changes to the side in the Rugby Championship decider against South Africa in Johannesburg. McCaw's return pushes Sam Cane to the reserves while, Ben Franks, comes onto the bench.
Tight-head prop Owen Franks has succumbed to a groin injury sustained during the 33-15 win over Argentina in La Plata last weekend, meaning he will miss the decider at Ellis Park. His place is taken by Charlie Faumuina. In a straight swap, hooker Dane Coles joins the reserves in place of Keven Mealamu, with Andrew Hore retained as the starting hooker.
The return of McCaw lifts the number of Test caps in the starting XV to a combined 729, making it the sixth most experienced side the All Blacks have fielded. Midfielders Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu start a Test together for the 51st time, setting a world record. They previously shared the record with the Irish combination of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen expects a fierce challenge from the Springboks, who still have a chance of winning the Rugby Championship going into the final game. They sit five points behind the unbeaten All Blacks, with their only loss coming in the 29-15 defeat when the two sides met in Auckland three weeks ago.
To lift the title off 2012 champions New Zealand, the Springboks need to secure a bonus point win by scoring four tries. They must also ensure the All Blacks don't earn a bonus point, either by scoring four tries themselves or finishing within seven points of the hosts.
Hansen says the requirement could force a different style of game on the Springboks, "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," he said. "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."
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.
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