James Mortimer 24.Sep.2012Getty Images
The term sabbatical may not be completely accurate, as traditional it refers to a year away, while it often leads individuals to overseas pursuits – with Dan Carter (playing for Perpignan) and Ma’a Nonu (Ricoh Black Rams) the previous All Blacks to take the break.
Unlike his team-mates, McCaw has made it clear that the break was to rest and recuperate.
While he didn’t boldly declare that this six-month break would allow him to lead the All Blacks to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, he did say that it was part of the reason for skipping the Crusaders next campaign.
McCaw, speaking from Buenos Aires, still walked somewhat gingerly, while his face sported the numerous small cuts that were indicative of the physical assault the All Blacks captain exposed himself to against the Springboks – topping the ball carries for forwards and being the busiest tackler.
"The body takes a pounding regularly,” he said.
“But it's when you lose that desire to get yourself over that and ready for the next week, that's when you start to have enough.
"Part of it is physical, but it's also mental. Over the years I've never really had more than a couple of months off unless it's been injury related so to be able to take a break, reassess and then play whatever time I've got left is a good opportunity."
The decision comes after discussions with the Crusaders, New Zealand Rugby Union and All Blacks' management teams, and the World Cup winning skipper will also miss New Zealand’s first three Tests of 2013 – against France in the Steinlager Series.
NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew, Crusaders Chief Executive Hamish Riach and Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder said that the move was designed to prolong McCaw’s time in the game, while saying that the most capped All Black of all time deserved to put his feet up.
All involved wanted McCaw to be able to perform at the highest level of the game as long as possible.
McCaw wanted to keep playing, with the break clearly showing he has an eye on perhaps becoming the first World Cup captain to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup.
"I'm pretty keen to play as long as I can especially for the All Blacks,” McCaw said.
“(As well as) in New Zealand (and) the break will hopefully allow me to play a bit longer.”
McCaw said that he regularly discussed his workload with Blackadder, with the Crusaders captain playing seven games for the team this year, and agreed this would be the ideal chance.
"I just think this is the right time,” he said.
“Toddy and I sat down and tried to map out how the next few years would look."
With 110 tests, 73 of them leading his country, McCaw also said he didn’t want to become baggage for the team, as he wanted to keep that burning desire he felt when donning the Black jersey.
"The big thing I want to make sure is there is not a perception I'm just hanging in there and just being around for the sake of it,” he said.
“I still want to do it right and having that break is going to hopefully invigorate the next couple of years. Sometimes having a break here and there reminds you how much fun it is when you put the jersey on.”
“I still absolutely love it."