Richie McCaw was strangled by a Hurricanes forward and feared for his life after being trapped in the headlock for 24 seconds.
McCaw may be the All Blacks captain-in-waiting and the best opensider in the game, but in New Zealand there’s no love lost when he wears red and black and not just black.
The New Zealand Herald on Sunday’s Gregor Paul reports that a Hurricanes forward strangled McCaw in last weekend’s brutal match-up — and that McCaw feared for his life after nearly blacking out.
The Herald reports that television pictures failed to capture McCaw’s distress when he was being throttled by an opposition player at the bottom of a ruck, but the All Black has told Crusaders management he was starting to panic before his team-mates came to his rescue and physically restrained the opposition player.
One Crusaders source who has timed the incident using video footage and heard McCaw’s version of events has described the act “as the most despicable thing I have ever seen on a rugby pitch”.
The referee, Paul Honiss, dealt with the incident at the time as a fracas broke out when both sides rushed to break up the struggle between McCaw and the other player.
The other players only became aware there was trouble when the ruck cleared. But the opposition player’s hands had been round McCaw’s neck for some time before the other bodies were shifted.
Last year Blues lock Ali Williams stomped on McCaw’s head in a Super 12 match and was banned for six weeks. McCaw in the last week was also branded a cheat by New Zealand teams, who have come unstuck against him in the competition.
However, he responded in brilliant fashion with a monumental performance against the Waratahs. He made 25 tackles and did not concede one penalty at the breakdown.