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Wallabies went too far on McCaw - White

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NZPA     22 Aug 2006     Photosport

White also turned up the heat on his opposite Graham Henry today despite the Philips Tri Nations trophy already being in the All Blacks' cabinet, saying the men in black face their biggest test of character in 2006 at the imposing Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Suggestions are that McCaw will be rested for the fresh legs of Chris Masoe after taking a battering from the Wallabies during their 34-27 win in Auckland, including a spear tackle that earned Lote Tuqiri a 10-week suspension.

White said the extra attention, which included a swinging arm to the face by Phil Waugh which went unpunished, was an occupational hazard for the world's best No 7.

"The Wallabies saw him as a huge strength, he has been probably the best player in this competition and the most spoken-about player this year," White said.

"That tackle he made on Mark Gerrard to win the game in Brisbane -- they realised he was a key guy.

"Richie will be the first to tell you if you're seen as that good, people will target you and try to get you out of the game as long as it's all above board and legal. I suppose that's why he plays in that position."

Asked whether he thought the Wallabies' tactics were above board, White replied: "Once or twice he got taken out a bit and they didn't really have to do it. But the citing commissioner has stepped in and addressed it."

Henry yesterday reported McCaw's condition as "fragile" but White insisted he would be "very surprised" if McCaw was benched.

"Much as there has been a rotation system in New Zealand rugby, the two jerseys of No 7 and No 10 (Daniel Carter) usually have the same names on. He's obviously a key element of their success."

It would seem logical for Henry to give McCaw a rest either this Saturday or the following weekend in nearby Rustenberg to protect his most prized asset.

But the All Blacks are also well aware of their achilles heel so far under Henry's leadership -- a winless record in South Africa after defeats in Johannesburg in 2004 and Cape Town last year.

The Springboks were clearly relishing the sun on their backs here today after a horror draw including five weeks on the road, with their best result an 18-20 loss to the Wallabies in Sydney.

"We got Australia in Sydney a week after they played the All Blacks and we know what impact that has on the players in the second week," White said.

"But what we gain this weekend we lose the next two weekends because we play three Saturdays in a row -- that's the nature of the competition.

"We've probably got the best deal this weekend because the All Blacks had to fly after playing a tough Test match."

But White has injury concerns, with key forwards Bakkies Botha (foot) and Schalk Burger (neck) already out and lock Danie Rossouw (hamstring) and first five-eighth Andre Pretorious (shin splints) requiring fitness tests.

Others including lock Victor Matfield and flanker Joe van Niekerk had niggly injuries but White was confident all 28 of his squad would come through training unscathed today before he names his side on Wednesday.

Henry, who arrived yesterday with the remaining 11 squad members, names his team tonight (NZ time).