Boks look to halt runaway Kiwi train
September 13, 2012
Piri Weepu is back at scrum-half for the All Blacks © Getty Images
New Zealand will be looking to preserve their unbeaten record in the Rugby Championship when they play host to South Africa in Dunedin on Saturday.
The All Blacks overcame Argentina last weekend with a hard fought 21-5 victory having already downed Australia twice and as a result are in pole position to claim the inaugural Championship title.
While Steve Hansen's tenure as All Blacks coach seems to have gone seamlessly, the same cannot be said for his South African counterpart Heyneke Meyer. His side fell to the Wallabies last weekend and escaped with a draw against the Pumas the previous week and are under increasing pressure to return to winning ways against the World Champions on their own soil.
New Zealand - Player to Watch: He has struggled with his weight in the past but there are few better with ball in hand than Piri Weepu. His box kicking ability is up there with the best in the world and if he's given space then he will act as a second fly-half for the All Blacks.
New Zealand - Team News: Weepu is handed the scrum-half jersey ahead of Aaron Smith with the latter dropping to the bench due to a 'team protocol breach'. Up front, Hansen has opted for three changes. Sam Whitelock replaces Brodie Retallick at lock, Liam Messam comes in at blindside for Victor Vito and Andrew Hore takes the hooking duties from Keven Mealamu. Retallick, Vito and Mealamu all drop to the bench where there is also one other change that sees utility back Tamati Ellison drafted in at the expense of Ben Smith.
South Africa - Player to Watch: Morne Steyn has been handed the fly-half reins despite increasing calls for him to be dropped with promising youngster Johan Goosen lying in wait on the bench. Steyn needs a big performance and on huge stages such as this, it might just be Steyn's time to prove the doubters wrong.
South Africa - Team News: South Africa have made two changes for the match with Flip van der Merwe and flanker Francois Louw both getting the nod. Van der Merwe comes in for the suspended Eben Etzebeth while Louw starts in place of Marcell Coetzee at flanker. There are four more changes on the bench, where Coetzee joins Dean Greyling, Andries Bekker and Juan de Jongh amongst the replacements.
Key Battle: The back-row battle will be typically physical and at times ugly with the face-off between Louw and Messam particularly tasty. The master of the dark arts Richie McCaw will be looking to disrupt the Boks play as much as possible.
Trivia: The All Blacks' most capped prop, Tony Woodcock, joins team-mate Dan Carter on 89 Test caps this weekend making them the joint fifth most capped All Black of all time.
Stats: Cory Jane's try last weekend brought up 2000 points scored by the All Blacks in Tri Nations/Rugby Championship matches.
"At the halfway stage of the Rugby Championship we are very happy, from a results point of view." - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
"The New Zealanders are good on the ground which is why we decided to go for a specialist openside flank in Francois. Marcell has been very good this season and has played a lot of rugby, but in this match we feel he will be more useful as an impact option." - South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer
Prediction: New Zealand will make it four from four with a win of less than seven points
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
It was another bumper year of rugby action in 2014; join us as we take a look back at some of the season's top statistics
Salary caps, Saints, sinners and scrums - Monday Maul looks back at the key talking points from an eventful weekend
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14