The battle of the breakdown is going to be crucial when the Wallabies face the All Blacks in Melbourne this weekend – especially as the South African media have interpreted New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw’s recent comments as a virtual admission of breaking the laws.
McCaw frustrated the Springboks in their two recent Tri-Nations clashes in New Zealand with his work at the break down, with the statisticians noting he was penalised five times in that area by Irish referee Alain Rolland.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers felt his side were hard done by in that game in Wellington and the South African camp were bemused as to why McCaw didn’t receive a yellow card.
Rolland will be back in the middle when the Boks, the reigning Tri-Nations champions who have yet to pick up a point this season from their opening three games, when the Wallabies visit Loftus Versfeld on 28 August.
“I made a few mistakes. I think the important thing is to know what you will get away with, but I undoubtedly made mistakes,” said McCaw.
McCaw, acknowledged across the rugby playing world as one of the greatest players at the breakdown, said he would continue to play on the edge as long as it didn’t damage his team’s chances.
He also noted that the rising star in the Wallaby pack, powerful openside David Pocock, had similarly frustrated the Springboks in Brisbane, where he picked up three penalties.
The British & Irish Lions have suffered at the breakdown on their last two tours with McCaw helping the All Blacks register a 3-0 series triumph in 2005 and Heinrich Brussow thwarting the efforts of Paul O’Connell’s side in South Africa in 2009.
At just 22, Pocock has taken over the mantle of the 100+ capped George Smith in the Aussie back row and will undoubtedly be a key figure in the home side when the Lions next tour in 2013.
That tour will mark the 125th anniversary of the first trip made by a British team in 1888.