The rotation of players in the All Black squad has opened the door for former captain Reuben Thorne, who will make his Test comeback this Saturday.
After turning down the chance to lead the Junior All Blacks earlier this year, Thorne expressed his surprise at being named in the senior team. He had already begun focussing on another provincial campaign with Cantebury when he got the call-up.
“I thought that might have been the end of it to be honest,” Thorne said on Wednesday.
Thorne replaces the hulking Jerry Collins, a change that the South Africans won’t mind at all. However, the 31-year-old relishes the challenge of taking it to the Springboks.
“I’ve had to fit into what the role is of the six in this team, which is slightly different. Some of that involves a bit more ball carry, hopefully, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Collins is one of the strongest ball carriers in world rugby, and although Thorne is no slouch, the Springboks may view him as a potential weak point.
The selection of Jacques Cronje at the back of the Springbok scrum was made by Jake White with the intention of bulking up his forwards. Wet Weather in Wellington on Saturday means a war of attrition, and so the ability to gain metres around the rucks and mauls will be paramount.
An advantage that Thorne does have is the fact that he is fresh, having only played three club games since the end of the Vodacom Super 14.
“If I’d just trucked on and played four games on the trot (for the Junior All Blacks) after that final, I would probably start to feel the pinch now. I certainly wouldn’t feel as fresh as I am,” he said.