By RUPERT GUINNESS - SMH
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw led his band of ''desperate'' teammates into Sydney last night, declaring that the outcome of the Test against the Wallabies on Saturday would determine which one of the two sides will be the first to surrender any hope of winning the Tri Nations title.
McCaw, one of the first All Blacks to pass through Customs after they flew in on three separate flights from Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, agreed that despite the traditional hype of Saturday's Test doubling as a Bledisloe Cup clash, both sides' losses in South Africa had upped the ante.
The All Blacks beat the Wallabies at Eden Park 22-16, but lost to the Springboks at Bloemfontein and Durban, while Australia were then beaten by the South Africans at Cape Town. The Springboks lead the Tri Nations on 12 points, the Kiwis are second on four while Australia are third on one.
''What the last couple of results for both of us means is that it ups [the pressure] a little more,'' McCaw said of the test at ANZ Stadium.
McCaw said every Test was a ''must-win'' fixture but added: ''I guess from the contest of the Tri Nations - it might even be out our control now - but we have got to ... if we are going to be a chance, we have to win the last three games. And we have to start [winning on] Saturday.''
Asked if he felt the loser in Saturday's Test would be out of the race to win this year's Tri Nations title, McCaw said: ''Yeah ... I guess from our point of view, the Bledisloe Cup is still on the line as well.
''That is the trophy that we - and the Wallabies as well - value pretty highly. So this is another game in the series. It is a big part of it. [But] you are right. If we don't win this week, the Tri Nations is all but gone I would suggest.''
All Blacks coach Graham Henry agreed the test had added spice with so much at stake for two ''desperate'' sides coming off losses.
''It will be good to play in this part of the world, I suppose, instead of over there [in South Africa],'' Henry said as he arrived.
''That just means both sides are pretty desperate aren't they? They haven't done so well so far in the Tri Nations. It's early days yet, and so both sides will be desperate for a win.''
Henry said five-eighth Dan Carter was ''in good shape'' and ''has been playing well at the level below, provincial level'' after six months out due to injury.
But Henry said the All Blacks ''can't expect him to do the job for us'' and win the Test on his own. ''He will be another player for us, and I am sure he will play well ... if he gets selected,'' he said.