Once more Richie McCaw etches his name onto the honours roll.
After 13 years at the top and with 132 appearances to his name, McCaw has already played the most tests for the All Blacks, followed by fellow modern-day centurions Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Daniel Carter and Mils Muliaina.
Against the Pumas in La Plata on Sunday, McCaw will further enhance his legacy by equalling Colin Meads’ record of 133 total matches. Providing he remains fit, McCaw will then have the chance to surpass the legendary lock in South Africa next week and hold the record outright.
“He’s worthy of being the guy who plays the most games for the All Blacks,” coach Steve Hansen said.
In the amateur era, not all games were given test match status. It was then the likes of Meads, Sean Fitzpatrick and Andy Haden clocked up a number of games for the All Blacks – matches coming against teams such as New South Wales, Transvaal and Oxford University when old-fashioned touring remained prevalent.
Comparatively, McCaw’s sole non-test appearance since debuting against Ireland in 2001 came against the Barbarians.
History forms a prestigious element of All Blacks’ tradition. Much of the ethos is built around upholding the legacy of those who have gone before you. In typically modest fashion, McCaw will brush aside his latest achievement but upon reflection – whenever his boots are hung up – he will realise its significance. Others already do.
“His whole career will mean a lot to him but won’t really register until he retires,” Hansen said. “He’s a special player and a special man for that matter.
“And he’s not finished yet. He’s got a few more to add hopefully. He’s playing well. He’s enjoying it, which is important, and he’s leading well. While he’s doing those things he’s extremely valuable to this unit.”
Internally, McCaw’s imminent record has been noted. Their captain’s achievement and uncompromising standards should alone ensure there is no complacency amongst the squad this week.
“Conrad [Smith] mentioned it to the team last night and some of the guys were taken back,” Jerome Kaino said. “He’s quite an amazing individual. When you hear those kinds of accolades and achievements, it’s quite awesome to be in the same room and playing in the same team as someone that special. I probably won’t realise how special until I finish and look back at some of the players I’ve played with, Richie included.”