WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND // Richie McCaw has warned New Zealand's Tri Nations rivals that the All Blacks have no intention of taking things easy with the Rugby World Cup looming later this year.
The defending champions, who swept the competition last year, open their 2011 campaign today against a South Africa team badly beaten 39-20 by Australia last week and severely weakened by injury.
With huge pressure to win the World Cup on home soil when the tournament starts in the autumn, is there a temptation to hold something back during the Tri Nations?
"You just can't," McCaw, the New Zealand captain, said. "The attitude that this team has, you can never ever do that. I've never gone onto a rugby field holding anything back.
"I've been in teams that have focused on something down the track and you get tipped over real quick. From a personal point of view and, I hope, a team point of view, you've got to make sure that doesn't happen."
He said the World Cup is on everyone's minds, but it will not affect how they play.
"I don't think you'd ever be in an All Black team that accepts not going out and performing," he said. "October is where we want to be playing better and better, but that does not mean we won't be going out to win the Test match."
Some in the team for today's Test, like the lock, Jarrad Hoeata, and the winger Cory Jane, will be keen to grasp what might be their last chance to impress the selectors and get into the 30-man World Cup squad.
Their captain, however, has warned his teammates that their efforts need to be focused on the collective rather than the individual.
"We've talked about it as a team, we can't control what the selectors do, all you can control is what you do when you put the jersey on and what the team does," McCaw said.
"There's competition within the whole squad and everybody wants to make the most of their chance, but to do that, you've got to do your bit for the team.
"That's what, I guess, people do when they come to select the team - look for guys that'll fit in and do their job well every time."
McCaw also brushed off any suggestions that they might take the Springboks lightly after a stop-start performance in their 60-14 demolition of Fiji.
"We need to get our stuff sorted because we weren't so crash-hot seven days ago," he said.
"The Springboks, even though they've left guys at home that would normally be part of the team, they've still got some pretty good rugby players there who'll be hurting after what happened in Sydney last week.
"I think the guys will be aware of that, particularly the guys who have been around a bit. Hopefully we've prepared as such and hopefully we'll perform as such."