x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

McCaw eases concerns

Injury doubts Richie McCaw, Conrad Smith, Isaac Ross and Keven Mealamu all come through the team's light training session in Centurion.

New Zealand's injury concerns ahead of their Tri Nations clash with South Africa have eased after captain Richie McCaw, centre Conrad Smith, lock Isaac Ross and hooker Keven Mealamu all came through the team's light training session in Centurion. McCaw and Smith arrived in South Africa with dead legs, Ross a knee strain and Mealamu a sore calf following the bruising 22-16 win against the Australians at Eden Park last weekend.

But the latter took a full part in the recovery games, although he was sporting heavy strapping on his right calf, while McCaw, Smith and Ross were involved for most of the session. Ross, in his debut international season, is confident he will be ready to take on the Springboks for the first time in Bloemfontein on Saturday. "It's feeling great. The South African water in the pool is helping it out," the 25-year-old second rower said. "We are managing it properly, doing the right things so it's looking promising." After spending the best part of six weeks on the sidelines, a dead leg is unlikely to hold McCaw back.

The All Blacks captain got through the full 80 minutes against the Wallabies despite having only 50 minutes of club rugby under his belt since injuring a knee during the Canterbury Crusaders' Super 14 semi-final loss to the Pretoria Bulls in May. The 28-year-old openside flanker is expected to get plenty of attention from the Boks' giant forwards this weekend, as he does whenever he sets foot in the country be it with the Crusaders or the All Blacks.

Back in April when the Crusaders suffered a surprise loss to the Cheetahs at Bloemfontein's Vodacom Park - the same venue for the Test - McCaw was constantly targeted by the South Africans and needed medical attention for a gash to his head. He missed the next game against the Lions because of concussion. But New Zealand forwards coach Steve Hansen brushed aside concerns, saying McCaw expects to feel the heat from the opposition.

"You always worry about your players but it's a Test match and a physical game and I don't think Richie would have it any other way either," Hansen said. "He gets plenty of attention from whatever team he plays for and as long as it's not foul play and in the spirit of the game, that's just the way it is. He hasn't played too much this year and he's looking forward to playing a few games." New Zealand will name their team today.

Meanwhile, South Africa have added centre Wynand Olivier to their squad for Saturday's game. Outside centre Adrian Jacobs is doubtful for the match because of a groin strain. Inside centre Jean de Villiers suffered an arm injury in the recent second Test against the Lions. * With agencies