Tuesday, May 23, 2006

McCaw pays tribute to Hurricanes hard men

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw is expecting a torrid encounter with the Hurricanes’ powerful loose forward trio in the inaugural Super 14 rugby final in Christchurch on Saturday night.
The openside flanker reckons the hard-nosed combination of Jerry Collins, Rodney So’oialo and Chris Masoe are game-breakers as well as solid defenders and will need to be well marked at Jade Stadium.
The Hurricanes’ loosies have proved effective this season and the Crusaders must at least match that to have any chance of grabbing a sixth Super rugby title, the recently named All Blacks skipper believes.
“They’ve been helped that they’ve had a tight five that’s done reasonably well and their backs have got them in good positions to be effective,” he said at the Crusaders’ home base, Rugby Park, as they prepare for battle.
McCaw had no illusions about how tough the match will be.
“It’s going to be a physical struggle and they’ve got some big guys around the field that have all got the ability to bust the game open.
“We’ve got to make sure we contain that.”
Commenting on a history of tense and sometimes brutal matches between traditional rivals Wellington and Canterbury, McCaw expected nothing less this weekend.
Both sides had players with top skill levels and a big physical presence and this combination tended to bring about “a pretty intense sort of game,” he said.
McCaw scoffed at a suggestion that the Crusaders might have reached a certain comfort level after being finalists seven times previously.
“What’s happened in previous years doesn’t count for anything when you get out on the field for a final,” he said.
“It’s all very well saying ‘you’ve been there and experienced it’, but when you get there it doesn’t mean anything.”
McCaw said all teams worked tirelessly for five months to get a shot at just one game.
“It’s disappointing if you come away having not performed.”
He said would tell Crusaders players who had not experienced a final not to get “too anxious”.
“You can overdo things heading into a final, but a lot of the work’s been done all year, so we just need to get ourselves in good physical shape and in good mental shape to perform.”
McCaw, who confessed to loving “the feel of a finals week,” said it was easy for players to get distracted by all the exposure and hype.
“It’s great that it’s in Christchurch because everybody talks about it and you get quite a bit more excited,” he said.
“You’ve obviously got to curb that excitement to make sure that you don’t over-hype.”
McCaw conceded that probably most of the rest of the country will be hoping for a Hurricanes victory, since the Crusaders already have five titles in the trophy cabinet.
“I think that only brings out the best in you. It feels like your back’s against the wall a wee bit,” he said.
“But from our point of view, you don’t really worry about that sort of stuff. We’ve just got to focus on what we can do and what we can control.”
The Crusaders will be without rising star halfback Andrew Ellis, who suffered a torn medial ligament in his right knee and was yesterday ruled out of contention.
Both teams will be named on Thursday.

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