Richie relishes dry conditions

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw says his team will look to get the ball to the wings as often as possible.

The Kiwis weren’t blessed with prime conditions for last week’s Tri-Nations opener, but they stuck to the basic tenets of Test rugby to grind out a win over Australia. They relied on territorial appreciation and a stern defence to see them through, and while they won’t deter from the blueprint, McCaw said they would try be more expansive if the situation allows.

‘We’d like to have a bit of a go, that’s what we attempt every week if we can,’ McCaw told keo.co.za. ‘It’ll be nice to have good weather for a change, but first you have to win that contest up front. It would be great to get the ball to Rocks [Joe Rokocoko] and Sivi [Sitiveni Sivivatu].’

Although no rain is forecast in Bloemfontein on Saturday, the temperature is expected to drop to a minimum of negative four and a high of just 13. Coach Graham Henry said they would have preferred a 3pm kick-off.

‘The dry conditions should help us and the way we want to play,’ said Henry. ‘We would have liked the earlier kick-off with the sun on our backs, but that’s not our decision and it was made for other reasons [broadcasting times].’

Although not all the tickets have been sold for the fixture, McCaw said South African grounds still provide an imposing venue.

‘The atmosphere is a lot different to back home. The crowds are very close to the field and they are a bit more vocal. Sometimes it’s difficult to hear calls, but we can’t let that distract us.

‘I’m sure there’ll still be a few people there, we don’t worry about ticket sales. It’ll be nice if it’s a bit more quiet, but we can also silence the crowd through our performance.’

Both John Smit and Victor Matfield have labeled this the ultimate Test for the Boks, and McCaw had similar sentiments, without going over the top.

‘I guess it is,’ he said. ‘I feel playing in the Tri-Nations is playing the toughest two teams regularly and we have to be at our best to succeed. The Boks are always physical, and it’s a mental challenge too.’

Henry was more complimentary and tried to hand over the ‘favourites’ tag to the hosts.

‘The Boks have a settled unit and have an experienced group. They are the best side in the world right now. This is the greatest rivalry in world rugby, that’s what makes this game so special.’

By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein