McCaw will accept Springboks scar if NZ wins RWC semifinal

LONDON (AP) The tougher the match, the more Richie McCaw loves it.

And no matches are tougher for New Zealand than the ones with its greatest foe, South Africa.

McCaw has the scars to prove it.

”One or two,” the New Zealand captain said with a smile on Friday.

”That sums up the intensity of test matches between the Springboks and All Blacks. Tomorrow will be another step up,” he said of their semifinal at the Rugby World Cup. ”It’ll be a brutal game, but these are the games I love.

”I’ve got the odd scar, but that’s just part and parcel (of playing).”

McCaw said the matches against the Springboks are ”some of the toughest rugby you ever play.”

”They test you, and these are moments I enjoy. That opposition with that sort of intensity is the way to play the game,” he said. ”And if we get the job done, I’ll take any scar that comes along with it.”

No player in test rugby history has been on the winning side against South Africa more often than McCaw. On Saturday, he seeks his 20th win against the Springboks in 26 tests.

Because both teams know each other well from meeting at least twice a year, they have one or two surprise moves up their sleeve. In July, the All Blacks pulled off a trick lineout that earned McCaw the winning try that put them ahead late in their test in Johannesburg.

But assistant coach Ian Foster said their first focus was on mastering the basics before trying to be clever. McCaw agreed.

”You’ve got to be careful thinking you’re going to pull a rabbit out of the hat,” the captain said. ”It’s not so much the flash stuff that’s going to count tomorrow. The subtleties of the guys who are able to put men in space can look flash, but it’s often the result of getting the basics right.

”It’s the subtle differences that often catch them out, not the miracle thing. Sure, we’ve got some things up our sleeve but you don’t go out there just thinking it will work. Big boys up front, getting the set-piece right, that’s the big one you have got to get right first, and if you don’t get that right then no matter what you’ve got up your sleeve, it ain’t going to work.”

His Springboks counterpart, Fourie du Preez, took a very similar line earlier. Du Preez’s blindside scrum move with No. 8 Duane Vermuelen earned the late, winning try against Wales in the quarterfinals last weekend. Du Preez said they ”have one or two tweaks,” but added that sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.

South Africa flanker Schalk Burger, who has been tussling with McCaw for 12 years, hoped he could win their last crack at each other so he’d have some bragging rights. He was also looking forward to a beer together later to reminisce.

So was McCaw, who seemed to be equally in awe of Burger.

”Schalk is the epitome of the physicality the Springboks bring, and I relish those opportunities,” he said. ”Tomorrow is another opportunity, and if I never get to do it again, well, I wouldn’t mind making this one to remember.

”He’s a man I respect hugely, but want to get one over him.”