With the 2023 Rugby World Cup final set to take place in Paris on Saturday, we’ve taken a stab at predicting New Zealand’s team to take on South Africa.
There’s just one change to the starting side from the semi-final victory over Argentina as the All Blacks look to become the first team to win four titles.
Predicted All Blacks team to face Springboks
15 Beauden Barrett: Has been outstanding throughout the Rugby World Cup, helping to provide an additional playmaking threat whilst injecting his pace and line-breaking ability on opposition defences. It’s not just on attack he’s excelled as Barrett has also been solid defensively and in the air and is a crucial player.
14 Will Jordan: Talk about coming into the final in form, Jordan was brilliant last Friday as he picked up a hat-trick against Los Pumas. The third try was the best of the lot and the All Blacks will hope he can keep hold of his scoring touch against a country that has never conceded a try in a World Cup final.
13 Rieko Ioane: A fairly quiet outing in the semi-final but it is unlikely New Zealand will change their midfield that has looked settled of late. Ioane will provide his customary prickly edge to proceedings and will be eager to get the upper hand on opposite number Jesse Kriel while utilising his lethal wings.
12 Jordie Barrett: One of the form players in the side, Barrett’s return to fitness has been massive and he plays such a critical role in their performances. His gainline threat is varied while his booming boot takes so much pressure off his fly-half. He is also a superb distributor who could cause the Boks problems.
11 Mark Telea: Superb in the semi as his return from an internal suspension was a stylish one. Telea caused the Pumas forwards countless issues around the breakdown as he attacked close to the ruck and expect more of the same against South Africa. So hard to bring to ground, he’s a key attacking weapon.
10 Richie Mo’unga: Another who will keep his place in the side but knows he must improve the 50% kicking record from the semi-final if New Zealand are to claim a fourth World Cup title. Mo’unga can cut open teams in the blink of an eye but must also follow Owen Farrell’s lead in applying pressure via the boot.
9 Aaron Smith: Has struggled against Faf de Klerk in recent times as the South African is a real thorn in his side in terms of disrupting his and the All Blacks’ game. Smith will be desperate to avoid a similar story on Saturday and will no doubt be looking for any marginal gain he can find ahead of this Paris finale.
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8 Ardie Savea: It’s staggering how he keeps churning out performance after performance with little rest. Another full game beckons for the tireless back-row as he looks to get the better of Duane Vermeulen and his replacement shortly after the break. Savea’s importance to the side can’t be downplayed.
7 Sam Cane: Has peaked at just the right time for New Zealand as Cane has done the simple things exceptionally well in the knockout stages. Not the most entertaining of players but the All Blacks have Savea and Shannon Frizell for that, Cane’s job is to tackle, ruck and do the dirty work which he does very well.
6 Shannon Frizell: It’s evident when Frizell is absent from this team as he is an outstanding blindside flanker who offers so much around the field and in the set-piece. So often powers over the gainline despite a standing start, he has fast become one of the first names on head coach Ian Foster’s team sheet.
5 Scott Barrett: The quality and consistency of Barrett has allowed Foster the ability to rotate his more senior locks, which cannot be understated in the way it’s allowed them time to recover and hit the ground running when required. The 29-year-old Crusader is at the peak of his powers right now and is a must-pick.
4 Brodie Retallick: The only alteration we expect to see in the New Zealand starting XV, Retallick is likely to come in for Whitelock in the second-row after having a bench role in the semi-final. Retallick’s greater mobility and steel will be needed from the outset before Whitelock brings all his experience late on.
3 Tyrel Lomax: Much like Frizell, Lomax’s increased importance to this All Blacks team has been a feature of their improved performances. The tighthead has battled with his comeback from a nasty cut to his knee but that semi-final performance was the best sign yet for All Blacks fans that Lomax is fully fit.
2 Codie Taylor: The All Blacks’ number one hooker and rightly so, Taylor’s a key cog in the pack and will pack down in the middle of an unchanged front-row. A solid set-piece will of course be a priority but he will also throw in pace and an impressive skill-set as he looks to win his personal duel with Bongi Mbonambi.
1 Ethan de Groot: De Groot is similar to Lomax in that he’s quickly become an integral part of this team and crucially strengthened an area New Zealand were somewhat weak, prop. It’s not just the scrum where he provides solidity, the Highlanders loosehead is also a powerful and mobile carrier around the field.
16 Samisoni Taukei’aho: Possibly the temptation to go with Dane Coles but Taukei’aho’s gainline threat and brute force will be handy against the Boks.
17 Tamaiti Williams: Looks right at home at this level and a Rugby World Cup title to go with his Super Rugby Pacific one would cap an amazing season.
18 Fletcher Newell: Another youngster who is flourishing right now, Newell has nailed down the back-up tighthead spot ahead of more experienced forwards.
19 Sam Whitelock: Back to bench duty this week for the most capped All Black, who looks to bring home another Rugby World Cup trophy in the second half.
20 Dalton Papali’i: Cane’s vastly improved form has seen Papali’i have to settle for a bench spot of late. His fresh legs late on though could be key on Saturday.
21 Finlay Christie: We came close to selecting the dangerous Cam Roigard but Christie’s bench cameo last week and great experience should see him named.
22 Damian McKenzie: His regular involvement in matchday 23s was something we pushed for earlier in the tournament. What a threat to have off the bench.
23 Anton Lienert-Brown: Such an underrated player who never lets his coach down, Lienert-Brown will seamlessly slot into the midfield late in the game.