Coach Ian Foster has recalled New Zealand’s first XV for a special encounter with South Africa on Saturday when the All Blacks could clinch the 2021 Rugby Championship title.
The All Blacks remain unbeaten in the 2021 Rugby Championship and will win this year’s crown as long as they claim a losing bonus point at minimum from their fierce rivals.
Head coach Ian Foster rested a number of regular starters for last Saturday’s 36-13 victory over Argentina and has made eight changes for the first of back-to-back meetings with the Springboks.
South Africa, meanwhile, are desperate to turn their form around following successive defeats by Australia, all but ending their chances of retaining the Rugby Championship.
The majority of Foster’s changes for the fifth-round fixture concern the forward pack, with Akira Ioane and Luke Jacobson returning to partner captain Ardie Savea in the back row.
The second-row pairing of Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett has also been restored as the latter joins brothers Beauden and Jordie in the XV, that pair starting at fly-half and full-back, respectively.
Loosehead prop Joe Moody is the only front-row survivor from last weekend’s taming of the Pumas, meanwhile, as Nepo Laulala and Codie Taylor come back at tighthead and hooker.
Aside from the eldest Barrett sibling, Beauden, David Havili is the only other change among the back line, replacing Quinn Tupaea at inside centre.
This will be Foster’s first fixture against this opponent since he succeeded Steve Hansen in the head coach role following the 2019 Rugby World Cup, where New Zealand beat the Boks 23-13 in the pool stage.
South Africa went on to have the last laugh as they later lifted the World Cup in Japan, but the title consequences of this clash are far more immediate.
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“The whole team is excited at what lies ahead this weekend,” Foster told reporters on Thursday.
“The group is working hard, we have been building our performances and we’ve put ourselves in a great position to win the Fortinet Rugby Championship and that’s really exciting for the team. The fact that it is against South Africa is pretty special.”
The 100th meeting between these teams will also take place a century on from their maiden match in August 1921, with the Kiwis clinching victory in 59 of their 99 match-ups to date.
South Africa changed only two following their second loss to the Wallabies in less than a week, with Lood de Jager and Kwagga Smith set to start at lock and openside flanker, respectively.
Coach Jacques Nienaber is still without talisman Cheslin Kolbe due to a leg injury, however, meaning Sbu Nkosi will continue to deputise on South Africa’s wing for the time being.
It seems only a matter of time before the All Blacks put the finishing touches on this Rugby Championship triumph, and South Africa require two dominant victories in the next week if they’re to stop the procession.
Many of New Zealand’s stars will benefit from the week’s rest as this phase of a demanding international tour nears its climax, hoping to seal silverware in a showdown of very special significance.
New Zealandteam to face South Africa
(Backs) Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, George Bridge, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; (Forwards) Luke Jacobson, Ardie Savea (c), Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody
Reps: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ethan Blackadder, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Quinn Tupaea
South Africa team to face New Zealand
(Backs) Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; (Forwards) Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (c), Kwagga Smith, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane
Reps: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Marco van Staden, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn