All Blacks ring the changes
August 18, 2011
Adam Thomson will deputise for Richie McCaw at openside flanker © Getty Images
New Zealand have reshuffled the deck for their Tri-Nations clash with South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Head coach Graham Henry had flagged a number of personnel changes from their last outing, against Australia at Auckland on August 6, and he proved as good as his word with his latest selection. Skipper and openside flanker Richie McCaw is being rested, as is star fly-half Dan Carter, with Adam Thomson and Colin Slade named in their place. Veteran hooker Keven Mealamu will captain the team for the second time in a Test, after he led the All Blacks against Scotland in late 2008.
Slade is set for his second run-on start in his fifth Test, Jimmy Cowan is back at halfback, while in the forwards Liam Messam is at No.8, Sam Whitelock returns to lock alongside Ali Williams and John Afoa returns from his eye socket injury at tight-head prop.
The starting 15 also feature the return of a number of other recently injured All Blacks to the Test side for the first time this season. New Zealand's most capped prop, Tony Woodcock, is set for his 75th Test appearance after an injury-enforced absence while fit-again back Richard Kahui is at centre, pairing with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield for the first time, Isaia Toeava is on the right wing and Israel Dagg is named at fullback.
Henry said the All Blacks had had a great build-up at Port Elizabeth and the team felt refreshed and raring to go. "There is excitement across the board in the squad and every player will be looking to put in a big performance this weekend," he said. Playing the Springboks at home is always a massive occasion and with rugby World Cup spots also up for grabs, our players will be looking to put in a big performance.
"We know we will also be facing a wounded Springboks side (after losing to Australia last weekend) who will want to bounce back from their three losses on the trot so we will have to be ready for a huge physical contest."
The All Blacks selectors are to name their squad for the World Cup in Brisbane next Tuesday.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Isaia Toeava, Richard Kahui, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear; Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu (captain), John Afoa, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Jarrad Hoeata, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu, Cory Jane.
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