By MARC HINTON - Stuff
The skipper may be shrugging it off, but the Crusaders say they'll jump on board the Richie McCaw Super rugby century bandwagon for their big game in Cape Town this weekend.
The seven-time champions are putting the highest possible stakes on their visit to the Stormers for a Saturday morning (NZ time) clash they say is must-win, and that includes giving McCaw the result his 100th match in the competition deserves.
It was interesting to hear the Crusaders talk up the permutations of this clash between two of the three teams locked on 34 points on the standings, five behind leaders the Bulls. With just three rounds remaining, and the beastly bovines to come next week at their house, the most successful side in the history of this competition say they no longer have any room for error.
In other words, not only do they want to help McCaw celebrate in style, they positively need to just to stay in the semifinal race. That's the scenario they believe they face after their stumble at the first hurdle on this trip in Perth last weekend.
That may not be strictly true, but it's a sensible approach. This match, between two quality teams at a sold-out Newlands, has a finals feel about it. And that's exactly how the Crusaders are embracing a contest they say can make or break their year.
"Obviously it's a pretty big week, we're treating it as a potential season [clincher]," said assistant coach Daryl Gibson from Cape Town. "The winner of this game continues in the comp, that's the way we see it. There are a number of things to play for - obviously our future in the competition, and also Richie's 100th game. That's going to be pretty special for the team and also for Richie."
Some teams run a mile from these things in the leadup to a big match. Not the Crusaders.
They're positively embracing the fact that it's a milestone moment for the man they follow on a weekly basis.
Gibson said it been talked about already this week. And the agenda had been established.
"Richie was our player of the day in Perth, he had a huge performance," added Gibson. "It's one of the things Todd [Blackadder] reiterated to the team this week. One of our most experienced players stuck out like a beacon against the Force and the best way to honour him and his performance is to put one in for him this Friday night."