NEW ZEALAND breathed a sigh of relief last night after it emerged that captain Richie McCaw has not been cited for his collision with Francois Louw of South Africa in Saturday’s thrilling World Cup semi-final.
An initial replay of the incident after 20 minutes suggested the openside was in danger of being cited. It was unclear at first if an elbow had been used by McCaw but a different angle revealed that he merely caught Louw’s shoulder with his hip.
Citing commissioner Mike Rafter has up to 36 hours after the match has ended to lodge a complaint, setting 6am today as the deadline. But last night World Rugby spokesman Dominic Rumbles said: “There are no citings from the semi-final between New Zealand and South Africa.”
Rumbles went on to confirm that the citing commissioner, with the benefit of 30-plus television cameras, determined that a video on social media showing one angle of McCaw coming into contact with Louw, was reviewed and proved to be the Kiwi’s hip clipping the South African backrower’s right shoulder.
All of which means that 147 times-capped McCaw will be at the helm when the All Blacks face Australia in Saturday’s final at Twickenham.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, who looked on nervously as his team pipped the Springboks by only two points on Saturday, had vigorously defended his captain in the immediate aftermath of the Twickenham tussle. “There is nothing in it, so there’s nothing to talk about,” said Hansen. “Everyone has got a bit excited, and we move on.
“He [McCaw] is a man that draws a lot of attention because he’s been a great player, maybe the greatest player in the history of the game. If he is not in your team, he’s a pain in the rear end, so it goes that if you can’t get him on the track let’s get him off the track.
“It’s a mark of respect, really. He takes it in his stride, and the team takes it in their stride.”
New Zealand will become the first team in rugby union history to make a successful world title defence if they win the final, but South Africa pushed them all the way at the weekend.
“When you have performances like we did in Cardiff [the 62-13 quarter-final win against France] it’s very difficult mentally to get back into that same spot,” Hansen added. “It was a really tight, tough game [against South Africa] where we probably didn’t play as well as we could have.
“I think some of our game needs to be looked at. We will go into the final really hungry for a performance. We won’t be overrating ourselves, which will be good. I think we will lift, there will be enough excitement. The final will be energising in its own right.”
Reflecting on the semi-final clash, All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams added: “It could have gone either way. We could have been sitting on the ground there knowing four years’ hard work was over. It’s simple. You have just got to stay in the moment and not worry about the outcome.”