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Read steps out of Mccaw's shadow

09:55:00, Mon 18 Sep 2017 Jim Kayes 170916All Blacksv SA_74.JPG (1)

Kieran Read was always on a hiding to nothing. Stepping into the gargantuan shoes of Richie McCaw as All Blacks captain the comparisons were always going to be hard to avoid.

He had a good first year - the loss to Ireland aside - but stumbled against the British and Irish Lions in June, especially in the third test when referee Romain Poite got the better of him in the final few minutes of the 15-15 draw.

But Read cast McCaw's considerable shadow aside with the 57-0 demolition of the Springboks in Albany - the second time he's captained the All Blacks in a record win against South Africa after last year's 57-15 win in Durban.

Comparisons between Read and Richie McCaw are inevitable, but can be misleading. In his 148 tests, McCaw captained the All Blacks 111 times. He set the tone for how they would play and how the big black machine ran off the field - and few were ever left to wonder what he wanted.

In 2012 when the Tri-Nations became the Rugby Championship with the inclusion of the Pumas, the All Blacks had to play Argentina in Buenos Aires one week, then the Springboks in Johannesburg a week later.
Training on the Thursday at Wits University on a dry and hot afternoon, the All Blacks were sloppy. Very sloppy.

McCaw pulled them aside and let rip. Yes, he said, we are tired, jet-lagged and it's hot. Yes, we are still sore from the Pumas match. None of that matters. We will, he said, feel the same way when the Springboks smash into us on Saturday. It's all mental. Get over it.

The All Blacks finished training without a ball being dropped and beat South Africa 32-16 two days later. Read is not a barker; he's unlikely to tear into a teammate, he tries to be an inclusive leader. He does, though, concede "there are times when you have to be direct to get the message across".

It's unfair, though, to suggest either captain has a better style - they are just different. "One is from Kurow and the other is from South Auckland. It's pretty simple," says Hansen. "They just have different upbringings."

McCaw's style obviously worked as he captained the All Blacks through a period of stunning success, including back-to-back World Cups - the first team to achieve that feat. But his way was strict, no-nonsense, almost literally black and white.

Liam Messam recounts a story that saw a new issue of boots arrive for the All Blacks to wear - many of them a wide variety of bright colours. Some of the backs, men like Nonu and Julian Savea, had already strutted their stuff in hot pink or bright yellow. As the All Blacks forwards opened their boxes, the standard black boots were there, along with some of the colourful variety.

"We looked over at the skip, and he simply shook his head. No words were needed," Messam remembers. The coloured boots were put away.
Read loves a bit of colour. "It's hard for me to compare how I lead to Richie, that's for others to judge, but there is a different feel to the team," Read says.

"I get on with a lot of people on a one-on-one basis and I'm a guy who cares and wants to get the best out of people." When McCaw captained the All Blacks he used his leadership group a lot to run the team, people like Keven Mealamu and Jerome Kaino, Dan Carter and Conrad Smith. He isn't as gregarious as Read, who was once asked on live TV at the annual New Zealand Rugby Awards after being named player of the year, what he hadn't achieved that season. "Getting my wife pregnant," he said.

Where McCaw and Read are similar is their outstanding fitness, determination to see the All Blacks succeed and their drive to be the best.
"When I first made the All Blacks I just tried to soak up as much as I could," Read says. "The atmosphere within the All Blacks was huge. But I set myself goals. I didn't want to just make up the numbers."

Those numbers are now pretty impressive. In his 104 tests the All Blacks have won 90 times. In the 29 times he has been captain they have lost only twice - to Ireland in Chicago last year and the Lions in the second test this year. And he's now captained the All Blacks to two record wins against their oldest rival.