McCaw absence a blow, or is it?
BIG DEBATE: How will Richie McCaw's absence from the crunch encounter between New Zealand and South Africa affect the All Blacks?
Injured All Black captain Richie McCaw won't feature in the Rugby Championship crunch encounter between New Zealand and South Africa on Saturday, but he remained top of the pops.
The big media debate on Monday centred around the absence of McCaw and what affect it will have on the All Black performance against the Springboks at Eden Park.
The All Blacks versus Boks showdown is a match between two undefeated sides that will go a long way to deciding the Rugby Championship title.
There are two schools of thought - with Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer leading the choir that sings of troubled times, while veteran All Black centre Conrad Smith suggesting the Kiwis will cope just fine.
"Obviously, I've got a lot of respect for Richie," Meyer told a media scrum in Auckland on Monday.
"He's probably one of the best players that have ever played the game.
"I've said it a few times, he is a great player.
"Obviously if we lose Jean [de Villiers] I know what it will mean to our team [what a loss it would be]."
Meyer admitted the All Blacks still have "great leaders", like Kieran Read.
However, he felt there is "only one Richie McCaw and obviously it will be a big blow for them".
Smith said the All Blacks are well equipped to deal with the injury-enforced absence of McCaw over the next month of the Rugby Championship.
"He's obviously a pretty important part of the team, but I suppose we can take some comfort in the fact that we've dealt with it before," Smith said.
"Obviously most recently, earlier this year [against France in June], we had some games without him and we learned to live without him.
"In the past he also missed the odd game with injury, so it's a big blow, but I think one we're well prepared to deal with.
"We're just going to ask a lot more of the guys that are the leaders in the team to step up and fill the void that he leaves behind but that's something we're preparing for and I'm sure the guys are up for it."
Meyer predicted "war-like" conditions at the breakdown, where the Springboks fierce back row of Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw will aim to outmuscle a combination that will feature a trio that will be selected from Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua and No.8 Kieran Read.
"One thing I know about New Zealand is that they have probably the best openside flanks around," Meyer said, adding: "Every single New Zealand openside [flank] in Super Rugby is a quality player.
"They have won a lot of games without Richie [McCaw] and they won't change their game plan.
"We know what to expect and we feel the breakdown will be war, like it always is away from home, especially in New Zealand.
"We don't expect anything less and like I have said, they have a lot of quality openside flanks in this country [New Zealand]."