He's not known for his horsing around but Richie McCaw has declared his much talked about "hoof" has come through Sunday's rousing Super Rugby semifinal without a hitch.
The Crusaders and All Blacks skipper also fired the first shot – in his case a blank – when asked about his much anticipated rematch with his quarry, Quade Cooper, on Saturday night, the uber talented Reds pivot.
The last time the two met was May 29 when the reds beat the Crusaders in controversial fashion and to rub salt into his wounds McCaw aggravated his troublesome foot injury. He made a successful comeback on Sunday and McCaw told Fairfax Media (the only New Zealand news outlet with a reporter in Cape Town) he felt beat-up after playing the Stormers but his foot was fine.
"The hoof is fine. I just got buckled up a bit and everything else is sore but that is the least of my worries," he said.
"I was happy enough out there and we were in control so I didn't actually feel like the legs were too bad. I felt pretty good."
McCaw was infamously penalised by referee Stu Dickinson for playing the ball in a ruck in front of his posts (New Zealand's Bryce Lawrence will referee the final) when he thought the ball was out. Dickinson disagreed, and Cooper's regulation kick sealed a 17-16 win.
Despite the defeat and the way the Reds enthusiastically contested the breakdowns and looked to counter-attack, McCaw will hardly arrive in the Sunshine State a nervous wreck.
The Crusaders, he said, don't fear the Reds or their electric inside back pairing of Will Genia and Cooper.
"Not really, no. But if you allow them to get front-foot ball the nine and 10 dictate things well. We just have to do what we did tonight and starve them of front-foot ball.
"From a team point of view it was pretty disappointing to lose last time, so we have got a chance to tip them up in the critical one. They played well against the Blues but we have got to back ourselves."
Just as they did to the Stormers, the Crusaders will aim to use their immense scrum and defensive lineout to disrupt possession and use their tight defensive line to punch their opponents back over the advantage line and vigorously contest the breakdowns.
"We played at the right end of the field which was the key. It wasn't pretty at times but we took our chances."
McCaw also set the scene for what will be another emotional week for his team in Australia.
"No doubt that for the first couple of days after travelling, you don't feel that good. But what you keep reminding yourself is that by Saturday, you'll be ready to go.
"If you take that attitude, you don't get down, and you tick off what you need to do at training, even if it's not 100 per cent, so that you can perform on Saturday.
"[Cape Town] was a great example of that. Now we've just got to bank that and know that we can do it again next week.
"And with it comes a chance to bring some silverware back to a devastated city.
"We made a decision early on that we want to stand up for the people at home and to show what the Crusaders are all about. We have that chance now," McCaw said.
His sentiments were backed up by the man of the match, Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett, who added: "Hopefully, we can do our people back home proud. They are struggling a bit, so we're doing it for them."
- The Press