Five starting changes to the All Blacks team to take on the Springboks in Auckland on Saturday.

Liam Messam and Dane Coles will be hot topics today.

The pair are two of five starting changes to the All Blacks team to take on the Springboks in Auckland on Saturday.

Messam, who has recovered from a calf injury suffered in the lead-up to the opening Bledisloe Cup test, has ousted Steven Luatua.

With the door opened, Luatua proved with his vast array of skills he was up to the task at this level.

But after three impressive tests the Blues blindside flanker has been given a spell. He will also provide locking cover from the bench, pushing Jeremy Thrush out of the side.

Messam will need a strong showing to hold his challenger at bay, though with Richie McCaw out for up to five weeks the incumbent’s experience could be valuable.

There were some tough decisions to be made, none more so than between Liam and Steven,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen acknowledged. “In the end we have gone for Liam’s extra experience and physicality, but we also know that Steven will enter the contest at some stage.”

Against a typically brutal Boks forward pack, Coles faces the sternest challenge of his career at hooker after coming off the bench in the last three assignments. The Hurricanes rake takes over from Andrew Hore with veteran Keven Mealamu coming into the reserves.

While Coles started twice against France in June, a rampant Boks team attempting to steal the No 1 mantle promise a much greater confrontation in the tight exchanges.

The same is true for Sam Cane. No doubt the Boks plan to assess the openside’s ability to step up in McCaw’s absence. The 21-year-old will play his 10th test and earn his sixth start in the coveted seven jersey. Canterbury’s Matt Todd will provide cover.

Ma’a Nonu is back after resting his ankle to reclaim the second five-eighth role from rookie Francis Saili, who has been released for NPC duties, as have Frank Halai, Ben Franks and Luke Whitelock. Nonu’s presence outside Dan Carter will be crucial to gaining punch in the midfield, and his battle with Boks captain Jean de Villiers should be captivating.

Owen Franks’ return from a groin complaint for his 50th test will also be welcomed. The All Blacks scrum battled for ascendancy against Argentina in Hamilton last week and the addition of their first-choice tight-head, which pushes Charlie Faumuina to the pine, should help shore up this area.

Kieran Read will lead the All Blacks and attempt to preserve their 30-test unbeaten run at fortress Eden Park, dating back to 1994.

“The test match is shaping up to be a massive occasion with the two top-ranked sides in the world coming together for what will be a special night for both teams, as well as our fans,” Hansen said. “Both teams are in good form and will bring their respective strengths to the contest.

“We have a massive amount of respect for South Africa and have prepared accordingly. The physical challenge will be huge – as it always it is – and the team that executes their game with the greatest effectiveness, clarity and intensity will be the one that comes out on top. The whole All Blacks group is looking forward to this challenge as it will give us a great indication of what level our game is at.”

HOW THEY LINE UP

NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Matt Todd, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

SOUTH AFRICA: Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers (c), Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Flip van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Juandre Kruger, Siya Kolisi, Jano Vermaak, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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