New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw admitted Sunday he pulled rank to score the try that brought a 27-20 Rugby Championship triumph over South Africa in Johannesburg.
The second most capped rugby Test player moved undetected into the scrum-half position Saturday as the All Blacks prepared to throw to a lineout a few metres from the Springboks line.
And hours of practice ahead of the southern hemisphere championship showdown were rewarded as McCaw darted forward to grab the Codie Taylor throw, found space and dived over.
“I had to pull rank,” McCaw jokingly told reporters in Johannesburg before a long flight home to prepare for the August 8 Championship decider in Australia.
“When we practiced the move during the week there was a debate as to whether I or a half-back would execute it.
“I am pretty relieved that it worked out,” said the flanker who will equal the 141-cap world record of retired Ireland star Brian O’Driscoll by playing against the Wallabies in Sydney.
Coach Steve Hansen lauded the manoeuvre that earned world champions New Zealand a sixth victory in the past seven clashes with greatest rivals South Africa.
“We practiced it throughout the week,” he said. “It was just a variation of an old move and was good enough to bring us a victory.”
The try was converted by impressive debutant fly-half Lima Sopoaga, who completed the scoring with a last-minute penalty.
It was the second consecutive weekend in which the Springboks, ranked second in the world behind the All Blacks, surrendered a lead at the death.
They led Australia by 13 points in Brisbane only to be beaten by a try after the full-time siren sounded.
Hansen said heroic mid-second-half defending by his team when reduced to 14 men after the yellow-carding of lock Sam Whitelock for professional fouls was a key factor.
“We displayed lots of courage. Had South Africa increased their lead then, it would have been very difficult to come back.”
The coach who succeeded Graham Henry after hosts New Zealand defeated France in the 2011 World Cup final had special praise for lock Brodie Retallick.
He played despite injuring his ankle during the pre-match warm-up at Ellis Park and showed no ill effects.
“I salute his mental and physical toughness for getting through the game. He should be proud of himself and we are certainly very proud of him,” said Hansen.
A couple of late tries earned Australia a bonus-point 34-9 triumph in Argentina later Saturday, bringing them level with New Zealand on nine points.
The All Blacks have won the three editions of theRugby Championship since its launch in 2012, when Argentina joined the traditional three southern hemisphere rugby powerhouses. – Agence France-Presse