It's that time again, a moment as good as any for paying homage to Richie McCaw.

Without his wonder try in Wellington, the All Blacks' long winning run at home may have ended. Thinking back over that gritty test, it's hard to remember many try-scoring opportunities at all. McCaw recognised one, though, zooming up with perfect timing to take Kieran Read's offload and diving into the corner like a wing.

Other veterans in this All Blacks lineup - Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane - look tired. Mealamu only plays a few minutes these days, and the rest - all younger than McCaw - are backs. McCaw is not only a hard-working forward, but he plays 80 minutes.

McCaw is zooming around close enough to the way he always has. He rediscovered some old ball running vigour against the Boks. The statistics usually put him among the hardest workers in any game - the man is a miracle.


Approaching 34, McCaw is not ancient. But when you add up all the matches (including 130-odd tests), the exacting physical demands of his position, the number of minutes, plus the responsibility he has carried for so long as captain, leader, superstar, legend etc, then he is defying what many of us thought possible in modern rugby.

His contemporaries, such as Jerry Collins and Rodney So'oialo, were done and dusted as test footballers a long time ago. Yet McCaw is heading towards another World Cup, having won the last one on a busted foot.

I've argued all sorts of things about McCaw in recent times, including that Read should be given the captaincy and that McCaw is not quite the player he was. At a pinch, they are arguments that can still be made, but there's just no point, nor in predicting he is about to fade. The fact is, McCaw is still one of the best and most effective test footballers on the planet, his warrior spirit and will to win at the heart of the All Blacks' charge past allcomers. On the occasions when there is any criticism or questioning of his form and future, he zooms back with a vengeance.

McCaw is entering a zone of quality and longevity that puts him in a league of his own. He is surviving, maybe thriving, as the All Blacks try to speed up, as they initially did against South Africa in Wellington including via short passing from their forwards. In other words, McCaw's test endurance is more impressive and difficult to sustain than that of a veteran in an old-style English or South African pack.

Teammates often marvel at the quantity and quality of McCaw's "extras" at training and he has an incredible motor.

His concentration and will to win doesn't fade, and there is a knack of knowing where to be. At the end of Saturday's test, the All Blacks were at risk of defeat after a failed lineout near their goal line.

No points for guessing who cleaned the situation up.