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South Africa v New Zealand: Richie McCaw gears up for bruising semi-final clash

By Andrew Baldock

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has predicted a "brutal" Test match when the All Blacks face South Africa in today's World Cup semi-final at Twickenham.

McCaw's men will go into battle as favourites in pursuit of a history-making second successive world title, but the 34-year-old has been around long enough to understand how big a challenge lies ahead.

"It will be a brutal game, but they are the games I love," said McCaw, who wins his 147th cap.

"If you get the odd scar from it, that's just part and parcel.

"Being in that environment, playing that opposition with that sort of intensity, is why you play the game. If we get the job done, I will take any scar that comes along with it.

"There is genuine desire for tomorrow to come around and get stuck in, but we realise the challenge that the Springboks are going to pose. They are going to be desperate and we've got to match that. It will be brutal because of that.

"The team that can deal with that and take the moments on offer will be the one that succeeds."

New Zealand arrived in the semi-finals following a 62-13 demolition of France in Cardiff last weekend, but that result is now history as far as McCaw is concerned.

"The first couple of days this week were about ensuring there was a full stop," he added.

"Looking at the way we trained, the guys are in a pretty good space and understand the challenge. We are under no illusions about what is going to be in front of us."

New Zealand were at their all-singing, all-dancing best when they put France to the sword, scoring nine tries and leaving Les Bleus in disarray, yet McCaw knows full well where the semi-final will be decided.

"It is not so much the flash stuff, it's being able to do the things that mean you can get across the advantage line. That doesn't change in any game of rugby," he said.

"You live or die by tomorrow, and it is about getting the fundamentals right. The subtleties of the guys who are able to put guys in space can look flash, but it is often the result of getting the basics right.

"We will be going in with a plan and it's the subtle differences that often catch them (opposition) out.

"Sure, we've got some things up our sleeve, but you don't go out there just thinking it is going to work. The big boys up-front getting the set-piece right, that's a big one you have got to get right, first and foremost. If you don't get that right, it isn't going to work."

As part of their preparations, the All Blacks were addressed by soldier Willie Apiata, who was the first New Zealand recipient of the Victoria Cross for carrying a wounded soldier to safety across a battlefield - under fire - in Afghanistan 11 years ago.

And McCaw said: "He is a great man. You talk about pressure, and he has been in situations with a damn sight more pressure than us. The boys enjoyed hearing his stories and his calming words."

Belfast Telegraph


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