All Black captain Richie McCaw yesterday spoke of his reasons for taking a six-month break from the game he loves, as the All Blacks contemplate wrapping up the inaugural Rugby Championship in Argentina.
McCaw explained how his body took a regular pounding, but he did not want to lose that desire to get himself ready for the following week.
"That's when you start to have enough," he said. "Having a break here and there will remind you of how fun it is when you put the jersey on because I still absolutely love it.
"Last year I signed up for four more years and I'm pretty keen to play as long as I can. I just realised to use that break will allow me to play for a bit longer ... part of it's physical, but part of it is also mental."
McCaw, 31, hopes to make it through to the 2015 World Cup in England. This break is designed to help him get through three more years at the top.
"Over the years I've never really had more than a couple of months off unless it's been injury-related, so to take a break, and I guess reassess, and play whatever time I've got left, I just think it's the right time."
While he has a holiday to look forward to, his mind will be focused no further ahead than La Plata on Sunday and Johannesburg the following week.
Two games to go and the inaugural Rugby Championship is almost in the bag for the All Blacks, but they were in the same position last year and lost the Tri-Nations.
The 18-5 defeat to the Springboks in Port Elizabeth and 25-20 loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane turned out okay for the All Blacks, who put the lessons to good use in winning the World Cup.
Defeats still rankle, though, despite a desperately needed success at home in the global tournament and the fact that they took a weakened squad to South Africa. After their ordeal with the Crusaders in the preceding months, McCaw, Dan Carter, Brad Thorn, Kieran Read and Owen Franks all missed the trip to the republic, but were present in the loss to Australia a week later.
The All Blacks hold an eight-point lead over Australia in the championship and only a severe downturn in form would see them lose from here, but the Pumas and Springboks will test them physically and mentally.
Given that coaching and selecting the national team is such a juggling act - weighing up the here and now against the future - Steve Hansen's attention must quickly turn to the make-up of his touring squad to Europe at the end of the year.
The All Blacks have almost an embarrassment of riches in some positions - halfback and first-five, for instance - but while talents such as Tawera Kerr-Barlow and the injured TJ Perenara will put pressure on Aaron Smith as future wearers of the No9 jersey, and Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett line up behind Carter, there is a relative paucity of talent in others.
- APNZ, staff reporter