My best years are only just beginning Posted almost 12 years ago

The search goes on. The World Cup has been won, but the goals remain. I want to win another Championship with the Crusaders, I want to keep up the standards of the All Blacks and I want to play the perfect game. I make my comeback against the Waratahs this weekend and I have so much to look forward to. It’s hard to let people really know just how excited I am about it.

Have I come close to that perfect game? I always think of the second test against the Lions in 2005 and the 19-0 victory over South Africa in Cape Town in 2008. But perfect? Not really. There’s always something to work on. And maybe perfection is the impossible dream that keeps us all going. Did Jack Nicklaus ever play the perfect round of golf? No, but he kept trying.

At the age of 30 my best rugby can still be ahead of me. If you think you can’t do something, then you won’t. But if you think you can, then you always have a chance. Your mental attitude matters above all else. The idea that I can still get better drives me to work harder. I have the experience, the knowledge to influence games, the drive to always be better than the week before. If I didn’t feel I can find perfection then I might as well look for something else to do.

We may not be able to drop another game at the Crusaders if we want to finish top of the New Zealand conference, a vital part of winning the Super 15 and so we have to aim to just keep on winning, to keep on improving. The Stormers was a big game for us and the defence is starting to come good.

When you look at where the Stormers and the Chiefs are in the table, the importance of good defence is obvious. Maybe we struggled to find our rhythm early on, but the back row has made a real impact in the previous three weeks. I am really looking forward to being a part of that against the Waratahs. We have to be wary of them. If the Waratahs get front-foot ball then they are a threat.

Coming off the bench I am obviously covering three positions, but Matt Todd and Kieran Read have played a lot of football. We need to keep everyone fresh. It would be nice to spend some time in my familiar role of 7. I can cover across the backrow coming off the bench, but in case anyone is speculating out there, 7 is still my number.

It is a position that makes you adapt every year. This season the refs are particularly strict on guys not staying on their feet. That’s a good thing and it has changed the focus of the turnover.

The Stormers have had success by coming up and hitting teams hard in the tackle behind the gain line. They are often two man tackles and have produced a lot of turnover ball. They have a hugely physical defence as they showed against the Highlanders and we have picked up on it.

There is definitely still a feeling among the Crusaders of playing for Christchurch. Everyone still has their own stuff to deal with down there. It’s great to be back playing at a home stadium and we want to be a team that the people are talking about and are proud to support.

How can you not be without goals with so many people behind you? The All Blacks leadership group (myself, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Conrad Smith, Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore) has already met. The June tests against Ireland feel like a new challenge and we don’t want to let the All Blacks form slip. Another goal.

And maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the line I might just touch the perfect game. The perfect game may not be the one that looks flashy on TV. For me it is about putting the opposition under pressure, creating opportunities for others, making the big tackles, winning turnover ball that leads to a try. There’s always something worth reaching out for if you want it badly enough.

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_Graham Henry on Richie McCaw:_ Very modest and very intelligent with seven straight A's in his first year at university. An outstanding number 7, the only man to win the IRB player of the year on three occasions. He leads by example, he sets objectives, he has the respect of the troops and a great feel for the moment. Up there with Wilson Whineray, Brian Lochore, Graham Mourie, Buck Shelford and Sean Fitzpatrick as one of the great post war captains of New Zealand rugby. He is a very special man.

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