3 changes to All Blacks to face Springboks
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand has followed South Africa in making a change at flyhalf for the Rugby Championship test in Wellington on Saturday.
Aaron Cruden has recovered from a pectoral muscle injury and will return in place of Beauden Barrett, who started a test in the No. 10 jersey for the first time in last weekend’s 28-9 win over Argentina.
South Africa on Wednesday named 20-year-old Handre Pollard to start his fourth test at flyhalf in the only change to the team that lost 24-23 to Australia.
New Zealand has made two other changes forced by injuries. Lock Jeremy Thrush will start a test for the first time in place of Sam Whitelock, who damaged rib cartilage last weekend, and Steven Luatua replaces blindside flanker Liam Messam, who had a quadriceps injury.
Lock Patrick Tuipulotu has recovered from injury and been added to the bench in place of Thrush and Cory Jane returns as an outside backs replacement. Israel Dagg has been retained at fullback.
New Zealand is unbeaten and leads the Rugby Championship after a 12-12 draw and 51-20 win over Australia and last weekend’s win over the Pumas. The Springboks twice beat Argentina before last weekend’s loss to the Wallabies at Perth.
“This week we have to find a desperation and hunger in our performance because we know that that is something the South Africans will be bringing after their loss to Australia,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. “As well, they have already stated they have a desire to get a win against us.
“After two wonderful matches last year, I know our guys are really looking forward to this match. We have the utmost respect for South Africa.”
Tighthead Owen Franks will become the third most-capped All Blacks prop on Saturday when he plays his 60th test, equal with Craig Dowd and behind Greg Somerville (66) and Tony Woodcock (110).
Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu will equal the world record for a midfield partnership when they play their 55th test together. Smith will also play his 80th test this weekend, overtaking Ian Jones to become the 10th most-capped All Black.
Nonu, who will play his 94th test, is the sixth most-capped All Black.
The All Blacks and Springboks have played 87 times with New Zealand winning 50 matches and South Africa 34 with three draws.
They last met in Johannesburg last season when New Zealand won 38-27 in a match considered one of the finest tests ever played.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Steven Luatua, Jeremy Thrush, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Joe Moody, Ben Franks, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Cory Jane.