Steve Hansen, the All Blacks coach has made only 2 changes to the All Blacks starting 15 for their important Test match and a fitting finale to The Rugby Championship, against the Springboks of South Africa at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
As expected, Richie McCaw returns to captain the side and fill the openside flanker role, with Sam Cane dropping to the bench. Richie will play in his 120th Test match and has never had the opportunity to play in a Test at Ellis Park.
The injured prop, Owen Franks, has failed to recover from a groin strain and has been replaced by Charlie Faumuina at tighthead prop, with Ben Franks coming onto the bench.
Dane Coles replaces veteran hooker Keven Mealamu on the replacement bench.
With Sam Cane reverting to the bench, Jeremy Thrush is dropped from the match-day 23, whilst the more versatile Steven Luatua retains his place on the bench, where he will also provide cover for lock.
“Playing the Springboks at Ellis Park is a challenge that this team is really looking forward to and one we are very excited about,” All Black coach Steve Hansen said.
“We know the South Africans will come at us with their physical game but to win the championship they will have to do that by scoring four tries so we are expecting more ball movement than we have seen in the past. So the answer is pretty simple for us – we will have to match their physicality and be very accurate with our execution across the park, both on attack and defensively.”
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
Date: Saturday 5 October 2013
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17:00 SA Time (15:00 GMT, 04:00 Sunday NZ Time)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)