NZPA - 31/07/2009
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has shouldered some blame for the lineout woes against the Springboks last week but is comfortable it won't create any mental anguish for his team at Durban.
The spectre of South African lineout star Victor Matfield hangs over the New Zealand camp like a dark shadow but McCaw is determined his forward pack doesn't get hung up on his prowess on Sunday morning (NZT). Matfield orchestrated an assault on the All Blacks' lineout during last week's Investec Tri Nations Test at Bloemfontein, won 28-19 by the hosts.
"We allowed him to be good by playing into his hands a little bit," McCaw said. "He got the first one and then we were reluctant to go back to what we were doing. It's the old story, you lose a couple and everyone gets a bit twitchy. Lineout-calling lock Isaac Ross and hooker Andrew Hore are the men in the hotseat but McCaw admits he could have done more to prevent the problem escalating at Bloemfontein. We need to be good enough that when one doesn't go good enough, to back the plans you had or perhaps change," he said. "Perhaps it was a fault of mine last week, that we didn't address what we were getting wrong. That's the frustrating thing from last week, that we allowed it to get on top of us. We put ourselves under a bit of pressure but we certainly can't panic."
McCaw and other All Blacks appeared surprised by speculation in media circles today that the Springboks somehow knew New Zealand's calls. Matfield was also caught on the hop, but said he would take such a claim as a compliment.
"I don't know why they say we have to go to a training session if we can just watch their previous three games," he said, mocking some of the security-conscious antics that have crept into international and Super 14 rugby in recent times. I do a lot of work (analysis) on the previous games they've played. I know at the Bulls, we've got every training session open. They don't know what I'm going to call in the game, that's what you need to get right, to make the right calls on the field."
Training was definitely a private affair today as the All Blacks went through a last physical workout at their third different venue of the week. The grounds at Crawford College were closed to South African journalists. Hore said observers who felt the Springboks had cracked the All Blacks' code would have good reason to.
"We just called and they were there. When you play the Africans, that's what they're good at, putting pressure on our throws," he said. "I think they've done their homework and worked out pretty much what we're about."
The veteran hooker will take McCaw's advice and not let the Springboks' lanky leapers play on his mind.
"The pressure comes onto a hooker when you haven't won your lineouts for the last couple of weeks -- pressure starts building on you a little bit," he said. "It comes with experiences. In my first couple of test matches, if you lost your first two lineouts, your game goes to pieces."
"We just have to have the attitude that if we do our jobs right, we'll get our ball."
Meanwhile, Matfield was possibly playing his own mental game when asked if the Bloemfontein performance was one of the Springboks' best in his time. He responded there was nothing special about the nine-point win, their biggest since 2004.
"We did what we were supposed to do, we just did our jobs."