Hansen shuffles his pack for Bok clash
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen rejigged his starting line-up for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Dunedin by making four changes to his starting XV.
Scrumhalf Aaron Smith drops to the bench with Piri Weepu taking his place while the other three changes are all in the forwards.
Hansen, no doubt in an effort to freshen up a pack which were made to work hard by Argentina last weekend in Wellington before battling to a 21-5 victory, has recalled hooker Andrew Hore, lock Sam Whitelock and flank Liam Messam with Keven Mealamu, Brodie Retallick and Victor Vito all dropping to the bench.
“At the halfway stage of the new Rugby Championship we are very happy, from a results point of view. There is a second challenge we have set ourselves – to constantly improve our game – and in that regard we are not the finished product,” Hansen said in a statement on Thursday.
South Africa won their last match against the All Blacks, an 18-5 victory in Port Elizabeth in August last year but only three players remain in the New Zealand line-up from that game.
They are fullback Israel Dagg, loosehead prop Tony Woodcock and Messam.
New Zealand currently top the Rugby Championship table on 12 points, five points ahead of South Africa who remain in second despite a draw against Argentina and a loss to Australia in their last two games.
Most pundits are writing off South Africa’s chances of pulling off a win on Saturday at the covered Forsyth Barr Stadium but Hansen is not taking the tourists lightly.
“We are all looking forward to the challenge that the Springboks will bring this weekend. They are an opponent that we have immense respect for, they are our traditional foe and there is great history between our two countries. It’s going to be a huge test match.
It is also the first All Blacks test in Dunedin’s indoor stadium, which is exciting for the team,” he said.
Saturday’s match has been sold out.
NEW ZEALAND: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Aaron Cruden, 9-Piri Weepu, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (capt), 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Luke Romano, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Charlie Faumuina, 18-Brodie Retallick, 19-Victor Vito, 20-Aaron Smith, 21-Beauden Barrett, 22-Tamati Ellison