All Black coach Graham Henry has made 12 changes to his starting XV for the Vodacom Tri-Nations clash with the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.
There is no disguising the fact that the line-up has a definite reserve feel to it, especially when one takes a glance at the bench. Nevertheless, the All Blacks team for Saturday still has a formidable look to it.
“We haven’t won in South Africa in the last couple of years and if we are going to change that, we need fresh, physically primed players. It has been a long time between drinks and we need all the help we can get,” a smiling Henry told reporters at Leriba Lodge in Centurion.
Henry said that the changes to the starting line-up were planned before last weekend’s Tri-Nations-clinching win over Australia. “We know every match against South Africa is very physical and we’ve just come through a tough contest with Australia, so the changes to our starting XV are strategic,” he said.
The only players remaining from the team that beat Australia last weekend are inside centre Luke McAlister, flyhalf Dan Carter and flank and captain Richie McCaw, while Mils Muliaina has switched from fullback to outside centre with Leon MacDonald coming in at No 15.
The most notable inclusions are wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, playing his first match in over a year, and South African-born lock Greg Rawlinson.
Forwards coach Steve Hansen said he was sure Rawlinson would not be overawed by the occasion. “It will be a bit emotional for him I’m sure, but he has a good head on him and I’m sure he will do just fine.”
â€œIt will be a big physical clash as always. We have a proud history with the Springboks and I canâ€™t wait for the game.â€
The All Blacks have all of their 30-man squad in South Africa and will probably rotate the players again for the Test in Rustenburg next weekend.
All Blacks team to play the Springboks on Saturday:
15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Mils Muliaina, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Piri Weepu; 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Reuben Thorne, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Neemia Tialata. Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jerry Collins, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Sam Tuitupou, 22 Isaia Toeava.
By Andrew Hollely, at Leriba Lodge