As dynamic duos go, you simply don’t get any better. The indefatigable forager and inspirational leader who knows no limits, and the outrageously talented playmaker who makes the sublime look ridiculously easy. They’re the two finest rugby players on the planet, and they both just happen to be All Blacks with a World Cup in their sights.
Story: MARC HINTON
SO DIFFERENT, and yet so alike. One’s a rugged forward whose forte is in rolling up his sleeves and getting down and dirty. The other’s a slick back who has soft hands, sweet skills and magic in his left boot. One’s all graft and grunt. The other’s 100 percent gas and guile.
That’s on the rugby field. Off it the contrasts don’t stop either. One models underwear and has been known to send grown women weak at the knees with his dazzling looks. The other’s a model citizen who’s never happier than when he’s on his own with his head in the clouds. One exudes urban sophistry. The other drips with country charm.
But scratch beneath the surface a little and you find they’re not so different after all, this Richie McCaw and this Daniel Carter. They’re both fabulous rugby players for starters, and thoroughly decent blokes with it. They’re rare talents who just happen to play at the same time, for the same teams, and live in the same city. They’re both rural types too, men of the heartland whose values have been ingrained in them by families who believe those sort of things matter.
They’re also the two finest players in an All Blacks team full of men of outstanding ilk. In fact, so good are they at what they do, so influential in their team’s pattern, it’s no stretch to say that they’re a duo who may well decide with their actions the fate of their country at the upcoming World Cup.
It may be sacrilegious to say such a thing in rugby, which is in many ways the ultimate team sport. Nothing happens without all 15 men playing their part. Scrums, rucks or lineouts must be won, and ball shifted through many sets of hands, for dashing wingers to stride over in the corner; bodies must be cleaned out for foraging flankers to work their stuff; tackles must be made all over the paddock for any side to build pressure; and, of course, every man plays his part in giving the playmaker the forward momentum he so craves.
But McCaw and Carter are not just exceptional players, they’re exceptions to any normal rugby rule. Take either of them out, heaven forbid, and this All Black team is not the same. Could the New Zealanders still win the World Cup without either or even both of these footballing geniuses? Of course they could. But would it be a lot more comfortable with them there? Damn right.
History will one day validate this supposition, but it’s possible we should all be pinching ourselves and then counting our lucky stars when we realise we haven’t dreamed up this rare confluence of events. Yes, the All Blacks do possess two once-in-a-lifetime players, and, yes, they’re both there in the vanguard as they head to the World Cup looking to bring an end to 20 years of emptiness.
For the rest of this great story including personal stats, great Richie and Dan photos see NZ Rugby World September 2007 issue....