Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

08th October 2012 11:00

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Richie McCaw

100 Test victories: Richie McCaw

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with inimitable achievements, risky appointments, lifelines and an ironic twist...

That the records keep tumbling is little wonder considering the dominance of the All Blacks over the past few years. But there are some records that just might never be beaten.

Richie McCaw's performance in his 100th Test victory was far from vintage, but then he's given enough of those down the years that he's permitted a couple of off-days.

There are, right now, 21 players who have achieved the 100-Test milestone, in itself a remarkable achievement. But with the current advances in conditioning and the ever-increasing number of international games, there's been a rush on that milestone in the past couple of years. A couple more players - Keven Mealamu is set to be the next - will hit the magic marker in November and there's a few more in an illustrious queue who could crack it in the next twelve months.

But 100 Test victories? That really is something else. That's winning a number of international matches that only 21 people have thus far been lucky enough to survive long enough to play in.

It's a monumental achievement, a testament not only to McCaw's durability but also to the continued excellence of the team he has played for and led since stepping onto the field in Dublin and giving a man of the match display on his debut in 2001.

More is to come of course. Each time he steps onto the field he'll be setting a new benchmark. But the question we've been asking ourselves all weekend is whether this achievement will ever be matched?

We doubt it. But it's fitting that McCaw, who is a holder of so many shared achievements, a member of so many small and celebrated troops of players in terms of career milestones, now also has one that singles him out. The best player of his generation is now truly alone above all others.

The only question that now remains is whether he'll notch 100 Tests as skipper? 24 remain...


How paths differ. McCaw was made captain a couple of years after the coach who first picked him despite eight minutes of Super Rugby under his belt, John Mitchell, was offloaded by the All Blacks' hierarchy in the wake of the 2003 World Cup exit.

Since then, Mitchell's has been a chequered path. He's had some unenviable tasks, attempting to entrench rugby union in Western Australia with the Force and attempting to turn the defective Golden Lions back into one of South Africa's rugby forces.

He's had success. Lest we forget, his record as All Black coach was an 86 per cent winning one. The Force are now an established team in Super Rugby, even if not one of the top ones, and the Lions won the Currie Cup out of nowhere last year.

But everywhere he goes, the spectre of his tough approach follows him. He was stood down briefly from the Force position amid accusations of his authoritarian approach becoming way too dictatorial, he is currently suspended from the Lions on similar grounds. His All Blacks tenure ended in controversy too, amid rumours of internal rifts over his strange decision to drop Christian Cullen.

Mitchell now heads to Sale, where he has coached before. He will join an equally authoritative regime in Bryan Redpath and Steve Diamond. But is it a happy one? And more importantly, is the addition of even more military-command style coaching really what Sale, where the players are labouring under a lack of imagination and looking like the world rests upon their shoulders, need right now?


One coach who is probably mopping his brow and relievedly hitting a well-earned stress-relieving squash court right now is Robbie Deans.

Few have doubted Deans' abilities as a coach, but many have doubted the toughness of the connection between he and his battered squad over the recent weeks. At times, the players have looked out of sync, fed up and tired in equal measure. And of course, there's been the Quade Cooper tweets of the 'toxic' atmosphere behind the scenes and the restrictive game-plan.

Well, after Saturday's siege mentality victory, the pressure should be a little less. It was a team effort, a group of players determined to prove its detractors wrong, rather than one trying to work toxins out of its system and frustrated by its tactics.

Deans has earned a brief stay of execution - and the question is now pertinent: if there was a toxic atmosphere for Cooper, who was really causing it?


Ahhhh, the irony! As things stand with a game to go, it's the Blue Bulls who might end up bottom of the Currie Cup table.

Should they finish there - and there are still four teams who could do so, so it's no guarantee - that would pit them in a promotion/relegation playoff with the Southern Kings.

Which means the following scenario is likely:

1) One of South Africa's Super Rugby teams will be a Currie Cup second division team.

2) Given the Lions' current position at the top and their form, a non-Super Rugby team might well be domestic champions.

3) While the Kings enjoy their newly-manoeuvered status as South Africa's new focus of curiosity, it could be the Bulls, the flagship team of the recent successful era, who drop from the top tier domestically as opposed to the now non-Super Rugby Lions, making way for the Kings

Are we the only ones to see the irony in all of that?

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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