Robust wing Caleb Clarke has been named in New Zealand’s starting line-up after returning from injury for their first Test in the Rugby Championship against South Africa in Nelspruit this weekend.
The prolific Will Jordan and versatile Jordie Barrett retain their places in the back three that can expect an aerial assault from the Springboks on Saturday.
David Havili and Rieko Ioane will continue with their partnership in midfield as they were in the final Test against Ireland.
No half-back changes
Beauden Barrett remains the starting fly-half in his half-back partnership with veteran scrum-half Aaron Smith and the pair will be key decision-makers in Saturday’s Test.
The loose trio is the same as the All Blacks‘ previous Test, where Akira Ioane impressed after being thrust into the starting line-up late on that occasion. Sam Cane will lead the team from the side of the scrum, whilst Ardie Savea will be looking to continue his good form at number eight in the black jersey.
All eyes will be on second-row pairing Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett, who will need to take charge of the lineout after a poor showing in the set-piece during their Test series against Ireland.
Meanwhile, George Bower, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Angus Ta’avao make up a new look front-row that will be up against a strong Springbok scrum.
On the bench, Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot and Tyrell Lomax are coach Ian Foster’s options as front-row substitutes, while Tupou Vaa’i and Shannon Frizell are the other forward replacements.
Blues livewire scrum-half Finlay Christie and playmaker Richie Mo’unga are half-back options on the bench, with centre Quinn Tupaea the final substitute.
Foster was excited to start the Rugby Championship against their rivals and is looking forward to getting started.
“What a great way to start this year’s Rugby Championship. It’s always an exciting tournament to be part of,” he said. “This year’s draw means we have a massive challenge of two games here in South Africa.
Expects intense encounter
“We have settled in well in Mbombela and are preparing for what is always an intense game against our old foe.
“Many of our squad are here in South Africa for the first time. This gives us another opportunity to add new experiences and grow our game.”
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Quinn Tupaea
Date: Saturday, August 6
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 17:05 local (16:05 BST, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)