Richie McCaw

Week 109 (31 October - 6 November 2015)

In New Zealand they call it “mana”. Not easily translated, the term can be understood as a combination of gravitas, humility and charisma. “Mana” is about what you don’t communicate in order for others to listen. And New Zealand rugby union captain Richie McCaw has it in spades.

Last Saturday, New Zealand – also known as the All Blacks – won the Rugby World Cup for the third time in the tournament’s relatively short history. The triumph, which was sealed by a 34-17 victory in the final against fierce rivals Australia, signified the first time any country had won back-to-back Rugby World Cups. It also sealed McCaw’s place as one of the greatest players the game has ever known. And some would argue he is the greatest player the game has ever known.

In his post-match interview, McCaw’s “mana” was obvious.

The 34-year-old, with 148 caps and two Rugby World Cups to his name, stood on the Twickenham pitch, still in his playing gear, and expressed his natural desire to keep playing. The world’s media were expecting a farewell announcement. Instead they got a dedication to the game of rugby in a few short sentences:

“I still don’t want it to end to be honest. Look, at the moment I’m still part of this team and how could you get enough of this…I just want to enjoy having played a wonderful World Cup final with a great bunch of men and I’m just so proud of being able to wear this jersey again today. I don’t think you ever have enough of it. If you have moments like this, why would you ever call it a day?”

McCaw’s grateful, honest approach to being a professional rugby player has helped establish a team who bestow the same virtues. McCaw’s New Zealand teammate Sonny-Bill Williams created a Twitter frenzy after the final by giving his winners medal to a young boy who had run onto the pitch to meet his heroes (and been rugby tackled by an over-zealous steward in the process). Williams’ rationale behind the gesture? “Better [for the medal] to be hanging round his neck than nailed to my wall.”

Williams’ gesture was not a one off either. Fellow substitute Beauden Barrett had given two tickets for the final to a hairdresser who had, earlier in the tournament, refused to take payment for cutting his hair. For good measure, Barrett also donated a shirt signed by the New Zealand team to the salon and his tournament cap.

History will remember New Zealand as the best team at the Rugby World Cup 2015 – but there should also be a footnote saying they were the best blokes at it as well. Both accolades, in no small part, had a lot to do with that man McCaw and his unquestionable “mana”.

Photo: iSport Foundation