The All Blacks have named their team for Saturday’s clash against South Africa in Auckland on Saturday.
Coach Steve Hansen has made six changes to the starting XV which beat a much-improved Argentina side 39-22 last weekend in New Plymouth.
In the pack, three-times capped Kane Hames is handed his first start in place of the injured Joe Moody, who suffered a season ending shoulder injury against the Pumas.
The vastly experienced Sam Whitelock returns at lock in place of his Crusaders teammate Luke Romano, while Highlanders back-rower Liam Squire comes in for Vaea Fifita, who enjoyed a stunning try-scoring debut in New last weekend.
Chiefs openside Sam Cane returns at 7 to pick up his 48th cap with Ardie Savea dropping down to the bench as back-row cover, in an experienced forward unit boasting 376 caps.
Behind the scrum, Aaron Smith, the world’s best scrum-half, comes back into the match day 23, to make his 65th appearance for his country. With the Hurricanes’ TJ Perenara dropping down to the bench.
Midfield linchpin Ryan Crotty replaces Anton Lienert-Brown at 13, with the youngster moving to the bench.
While young sensation Rieko Ioane who has scored a remarkable six tries in six tests since his All Black debut against the Lions in June, returns on the left wing in place of Israel Dagg.
Speaking about his matchday 23, Steve Hansen emphasized the importance of continued improvement and of continued growth as a team,
“Our big focus this week has been about continual improvement, growing ourselves as a team, growing our game, and how we want to play it, and how we want to play against different opposition”.
Speaking about Saturday’s opponents, he lauded the much-improved boks’ scrummaging and attack, while also highlighting their improving defence,
“They scrummage well, they attack well with the ball and their defence is getting better. So that’s basically the game”.
Describing South Africa as a ”tough opponent”, Hansen acknowledged that Allister Coetzee’s men would provide his men with a stern test, whilst also highlighting how his men always enjoyed playing against them,
“We know they’re a tough opponent-they’re always a tough opponent. There’s a long-standing history between our teams. We enjoy playing them, they play hard and it’s always competitive. But afterwards they’re always keen to catch up for a beer and chat”.
Steve Hansen’s men will look to continue an excellent winning run over their rivals, which has seen them suffer only two defeats to them in seven years: in 2011 and 2014 respectively.
Currently top of the table on 14 points, three ahead of South Africa, an All Black win would go a long way to ensuring a fifth Rugby Championship crown in six years for Steve Hansen and co.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 13, 2017