New DHL Western Province head coach John Dobson has selected a powerful combination for Saturday’s ABSA Currie Cup pre-season clash against the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth (kick-off 19:00 SA Time).
Having fielded a largely untried DHL WP XV selection against the Steval Pumas last weekend, Dobson has recalled most of his 1st-choice players for Saturday’s meeting.
Squad captain Juan de Jongh will team up with national skipper Jean de Villiers in the DHL WP midfield, with powerhouse flanker Rynhardt Elstadt named at No 6 upon his return from a leg injury which saw him miss most of the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
“It’s great to have Juan take charge and to welcome back Rynhardt Elstadt,” Dobson told the www.wprugby.com website.
“(Prop) JP Smith and (backs) Louis Schreuder, Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds were not considered due to their niggles, which, fortunately, are not of a long-term nature, whilst (hooker) Mikey Willemse, as we know, picked up an injury last weekend which will see him out for 8 to 10 weeks.”
Oli Kebble, Bongi Mbonambi and Entienne Swanepoel will pack down in the front row, with Jean Kleyn and Ruan Botha forming an exciting 2nd row combination and Springbok Nizaam Carr, DHL WP’s new vice-captain, returning at No 8.
The Eastern Province Kings have made a late change to their side that will host DHL Western Province at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (kick-off at 19:00 SA Time).
The union confirmed on Thursday that 31-year-old Schalk Ferreira will start in place of loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka, who has picked up a knee injury.
Basil Short will take Ferreira’s place on the bench.
Western Province have named a strong side for the pre-Currie Cup friendly that will see the Springbok duo of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh operate in midfield.
Loose forward Lappies Labuschagne will captain the Blue Bulls in their warm-up game against the Canon Eagles in Japan next week, the union announced on Thursday.
Midfielder Burger Odendaal will fill in as Labuschagne’s deputy in the match scheduled for Friday 31 July.
Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais earlier this week named a 27-man squad for the trip to Japan.
Springboks Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger, Dean Greyling and Bandise Maku are all among the travelling group.
The EP Kings have expressed their disappointment after former coach Carlos Spencer voiced his dissatisfaction at unpaid wages.
Spencer earlier this week parted ways with the Kings and – through his attorney David Jones – the former All Black has attributed his departure from the Kings to their continued troubles in meeting wage obligations.
The Kings on Thursday insisted that Spencer and his lawyers’ claims were “simply not true”.
“The initial problems we had with Carlos’ salary was due to his insistence of having his funds paid into an offshore account,” EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson, said via a media statement.
Watson said this resulted in delays that arose out of the administrative compliance and paperwork issues.
In the 2nd match of their Cape Town tour, the Steval Pumas had to battle a strong wind to beat the Boland Cavaliers 38 / 19 at the Boland Stadium on Wednesday.
Head coach MJ Mentz made several changes to the team that played Western Province to give all players a run on tour.
Boland secured the 1st 5 points of the game whereafter the Pumas fought hard for their halftime score of 24 / 5. All the Pumas 1st-half tries were scored by the loose forwards. JJ Breet opened the score line for the Pumas, Jason Collin Fraser and Jaco Bouwer also scored a 5-pointer each.
Bouwer scored his 2nd try just before the end of the half with Justin van Staden successful with only 2 of the 4 conversions.
Wallabies wing Henry Speight will join Australia’s Sevens programme as part of a new 3-year deal announced by the Australian Rugby Union on Thursday.
Speight’s new contract with the ARU will see him remain with the Brumbies through to the end of 2018 and join the Australian Sevens programme in 2016.
The landmark deal means Speight will be available for the inaugural Sydney Sevens at Allianz Stadium in February next year.
As part of the agreement between the ARU and the Brumbies, Speight will combine his duties with the national Sevens program and his Super Rugby team throughout 2016.
As well as the Sydney Sevens on the weekend on 6 – 7 February, Speight will be available for selection for the Hong Kong and London legs of the 2015 / 2016 World Rugby Sevens Series and – pending qualification – the Rio 2016 Olympics.
At the conclusion of the Rio Olympics in August 2016, Speight will be available for the Wallabies for the remainder of The Rugby Championship before returning full-time with the Brumbies for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons.
Joe Schmidt has signed a contract extension that will see the New Zealander remain as head coach of Ireland until at least June 2017, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday.
Schmidt was appointed to the job in 2013 and Ireland have since won back-to-back Six Nations titles, as well as climbing to 3rd place in rugby union’s official world rankings.
The 49-year-old also oversaw wins against South Africa and Australia last season and came within a last-minute score of beating his native New Zealand in 2013 – something no Ireland side has managed in more than a hundred years of trying.
In all, Ireland have won 14 of their 18 Tests under Schmidt and their form has made them 1 of Europe’s standard-bearers at this year’s World Cup in England, which starts in September.
Anything less than a semi-final spot – something Ireland have yet to achieve at a World Cup – would be regarded as a disappointment for an Ireland side whose pool also features France, Italy, Canada and Romania.
Being taunted by 61 000 fans at Ellis Park (Emirates Airline Park) doesn’t cause Kieran Read much anxiety.
No 8 Read expects the Springboks supporters at Johannesburg to rip into the All Blacks on Saturday (Sunday morning NZ Time), but he gives the impression that they could turn the volume up 10-fold and he still wouldn’t be too fussed.
Read is so in-the-zone during matches that the clatter coming out of the mouths of inhospitable fans doesn’t register as being unfriendly, or otherwise.
“I know the crowd will certainly be baying for our blood,” Read said.
“Once you get on the field, it pretty much becomes WHITE NOISE to be honest, and in some ways they could be screaming for you.
“It’s hard to know exactly what is being said.”
SANZAR has released the names of the Match Officials for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship.
Jerome Garces starts the action this weekend in Johannesburg when South Africa’s Springboks host the All Blacks from New Zealand.
In the 2nd match of this Round, Argentina’s Los Pumas host the Wallabies from Australia in Mendoza and the referee is Jaco Peyper.
Former Ricoh Black Rams flyhalf Louis Fouché has been named in the Vodacom Blue Bulls touring squad to Japan for their match against the Canon Eagles on Friday 31 July.
Fouché played for the Japanese outfit last year and has been included in the 27-man squad that will travel to Japan on Friday.
Springboks Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Werner Kruger, Dean Greyling and Bandise Maku are all amongst the travelling group.
Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais said the trip will be an important one for the squad.
With the arrival of Jano Vermaak at DHL Newlands, Western Province are faced with too much depth at scrumhalf and 1 No 9 possibly has to go.
Western Province have the luxury to choose from Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder, Jano Vermaak and up-and-coming youngster Godlen Masimla as their scrumhalf.
To manage all 4 highly rated No 9’s is a concern for Dobson, indicating that loaning 1 out may be the only option.
“To be honest that’s a fair source of stress,” Dobson said at a Cape Town media briefing.
“That’s a position we have real depth and Gert Smal is exploring that.
The issue with the Currie Cup is that unlike during Super Rugby where players lower down the pecking order have an opportunity to get game time in the Vodacom Cup, the next step down from Currie Cup is club rugby and Dobson said that “some of those guys will think its not for them.”
Lock Steven Sykes will captain the EP Kings when they wind up their match preparations for next month’s Currie Cup campaign with a friendly against Western Province at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
In a bid to give all his players some exposure in their build-up to the Currie Cup, Kings coach Brent Janse van Rensburg has predictably introduced a theme of rotation after their friendly against the Blue Bulls last weekend.
There is a new front row in Lizo Gqoboka, Martin Ferreira and Maks van Dyk, while Paul Schoeman will start on the side of the scrum following an injury to Thembelani Bohli last week.
At scrumhalf, Enrico Acker, who scored the only try against the Blue Bulls last weekend, will get his first chance to start for the Kings, while centres Marlou van Niekerk and JP du Plessis have an opportunity to prove themselves in midfield.
In the other change to the backline, Sylvian Mahuza returns from injury and will start on the wing, with Siviwe ‘Shakes’ Soyizwapi dropping to the bench.
Could Auckland rugby icon Carlos Spencer be on the verge of making a dramatic return to the Blues as a skills coach under Tana Umaga?
It might seem a longshot but the door could be open according to Blues boss Michael Redman.
Spencer, among the most gifted footballers in New Zealand rugby history, wants to return to New Zealand from South Africa having quit Super Rugby’s Kings franchise which he says owes him substantial wages.
Redman told the Herald the Blues will decide within days whether to appoint a new skills coach, or make the job contestable. If it is the latter, Spencer – who approached the franchise this year – would “absolutely be an option and we would hope and expect he would apply.”
The 39-year-old Spencer is on the lookout for a new job after parting ways with South Africa’s Eastern Province Kings, the apparently financially troubled franchise which returns to the expanded Super Rugby competition next season.
His shock departure from the Kings, revealed yesterday, has cast a further spotlight on issues facing the expanded Super Rugby competition.
The Melbourne Rebels have signed Irish international prop Jamie Hagan for 2 Super Rugby seasons.
Hagan, 28, a tighthead prop who has made more than 100 appearances for Leinster, Connacht and London Irish, made his full international debut for Ireland against the United States of America in 2013.
Hagan becomes only the 2nd fully capped Irish international to sign for an Australian Super Rugby team, after front-rower Peter Clohessy spent the 1997 season with the Reds.
Hagan said he was looking forward to testing himself in the Southern Hemisphere’s renowned provincial competition.
Experienced loose forward Schalk Burger will become the 55th Springbok captain on Saturday when he leads South Africa out against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
The 32-year-old Burger has been named interim captain, in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield. He assumes the captaincy from Matfield, who was ruled out of action in the short term after suffering a hamstring strain against Australia’s Wallabies on Saturday.
“Schalk has been a magnificent servant of Springbok rugby and he fully deserves this responsibility,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Tuesday.
“The resilience he’s shown in coming back from serious injury and illness is the kind of qualities I look for in players as well as teams I coach.
“In my eyes, the captaincy is very important and something I never take lightly or want to cheapen. Schalk’s character and the fact that he has been a role model for so many through the years made this an easy decision.
The Eastern Province Kings and New Zealand born coach, Carlos Spencer, have ended their association with immediate effect.
Spencer, who earned 35 caps for the All Blacks from 1995 to 2004, finished his playing career with the Lions in 2011 and then coached at the Lions and the Sharks, before linking up with the EP Kings in December 2013. He was appointed as the attack and specialist skills coach, and then took charge of the provincial team on their return to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2014.
In 2015 he resumed his duties as the attack and specialist skills coach following the appointment of Brent Janse van Rensburg as the EP Kings head coach.
EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson paid tribute to Spencer for his contribution to the provincial team during his time with the union.
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Super Rugby champion coach Jamie Joseph of the Highlanders and New Zealand great Carlos Spencer will take charge of the Barbarians next month when rugby makes its 1st appearance at the former Olympic Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.
Joseph led the Highlanders to their 1st Super Rugby title when they beat the Hurricanes in last month’s final.
His next appointment is to lead the Barbarians, who celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, against Samoa on 29 August. It is the 1st time rugby will be played at the iconic London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic venue.
“It’s a privilege to take charge of the Barbarians who are known the world over for bringing great players together to play entertaining rugby,” said Joseph.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will announce an interim captain for South Africa on Tuesday.
Even though there’s been no formal confirmation, the fact that a media briefing has been scheduled to name an ‘interim’ captain confirms that current stand-in captain Victor Matfield will not play against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
Matfield, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1st half of last week’s 20 / 24 loss to Australia’s Wallabies in Brisbane, was standing in for the injured captain Jean de Villiers.
And Meyer has made it very clear that De Villiers won’t be considered this week.
So who are the candidates in the current Springbok squad?
The front-runners, surely, are Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss – with Bryan Habana, Patrick Lambie and Warren Whiteley at long-odds.
If you really want to stir the pot, why not throw Flip van der Merwe’s name in there – seeing as he is now ‘available’ again.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers will get more valuable game time on Saturday as his quest to regain full match fitness and book his ticket to the Rugby World Cup continues.
De Villiers will start again for DHL Western Province when they take on the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday after he played 60 minutes in WP’s 19 / 6 loss to the Steval Pumas last Saturday.
WP coach John Dobson confirmed that De Villiers would likely be given an hour once more.
“He’s hinted at playing longer this week but he’s not going to get it,” Dobson joked.
“It’ll be exactly the same – 60 minutes.”
There had been concerns over a calf strain following the Pumas game, but Dobson ensured that De Villiers was fine.
Forwards Morné Mellett, RG Snyman and Deon Stegmann will all report for training on Tuesday, but fullback Jurgen Visser will miss the team’s match against Canon in Japan at the end of the month.
Visser injured a hamstring in training and has been ruled out till 3 August, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.
“Jaco Visagie (toe fracture), Morné Mellett (concussion), RG Snyman (calf), Louis Fouché (hamstring) and Deon Stegmann (hip) will all train tomorrow,” Strauss said.
A number of long term injuries are on the mend.
Pierre Schoeman (knee, 15 August), Clyde Davis (medial ligament, 27 July) and Ruan Steenkamp (knee, 15 August) will be back in the next 3 weeks.
New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big selection decisions to make this week, as his team prepares to take on South Africa’s Springboks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
Having rested the bulk of the All Blacks who featured in the all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final (between the Hurricanes and Highlanders) in the 1st 2 Tests of the year, he has to decide how many of them will now be unleashed on the Springboks.
Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito and James Broadhurst are all keen to get a run against Springboks in their Rugby Championship outing on Saturday.
Probably the most interesting selection would be what combination he chooses to oppose South Africa’s exciting new midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.
Australia have turned to Argentina’s scrum maestro Mario Ledesma to change the perception that they are pushovers at scrum time in the countdown to September’s Rugby World Cup.
Ledesma, who played 84 Tests for Argentina as a hooker, has begun working with the Wallabies on set pieces after performing the same function for the Waratahs through the Super Rugby season.
The Wallabies much maligned scrum came in for more scrutiny after some shaky moments in their season-opening Rugby Championship Test against South Africa’s Springboks in Brisbane last weekend.
Australia’s scrum has regularly been targeted by opponents over the last decade to great effect, and they will be under enormous pressure at the World Cup against pool rivals and scrummaging powerhouses England and Wales.
Michael Cheika’s men can expect another thorough examination in Mendoza this weekend against Argentina, a nation renowned for their scrummaging prowess.
The Melbourne Rebels have strengthened their squad for the 2016 season with the signing of lock Culum Retallick from the Blues on a 2 year deal.
Retallick has made nearly 50 Super Rugby appearances since debuting for the Chiefs in 2010, also representing the Blues and Highlanders, where he played alongside future Rebels teammates Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson.
He has also made close to a century of appearances for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup since debuting as a 23 year old in 2008, and joins on a foreign developing player contract.
Retallick said he was excited about challenging himself professionally, and joining a team he has watched develop in recent years.
The United States of America have released former captain Todd Clever from their Pacific Nations Cup squad over “multiple squad conduct violations.”
With the World Cup just 2 months away this less than ideal for the USA Eagles as Clever, who has enjoyed a spell at the Lions in South Africa, is 1 of their most experienced players.
A brief statement from USA on Sunday didn’t elaborate on the violations, although coach Mike Tolkin cited behaviour “contrary to the team culture that players and management have been fostering within the Eagles over time”.
“Clearly, this is not a pleasant or desirable circumstance for either party,” Tolkin said in a press release.
The All Blacks will be in the firing line when they take on the Springboks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
South Africa suffered a narrow loss to Australia’s Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane at the weekend and New Zealand expect a backlash from their arch rivals at Emirates Airline Park.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has left Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams out of his 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg, saying it is important that he tests the mettle of other players in a high-profile Test in front of a sold-out crowd.
“We have to be brave to find out some answers to some questions and what better place to find out some questions about people – it is a heck of a pressure situation, isn’t it, against one of the best teams in the world,” he told Fairfax Media.
The Springboks have called Flip van der Merwe into their squad but are sweating over the fitness of Victor Matfield and Marcell Coetzee for Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.
Both players were forced to leave the field last Saturday against Australia – Matfield with a hamstring strain and Coetzee with a knock to his knee. According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts a call on the players’ availability in Johannesburg will only be made later in the week.
“Both are doubtful to play this weekend, but luckily neither of them are in doubt to miss the Rugby World Cup,” said Roberts on Monday.
“Jannie du Plessis and Schalk Burger also picked up knocks in Brisbane on Saturday and we will reassess them at our 1st training session of the week, on Tuesday. Apart from a lot of bumps and bruises, the rest of the squad should be fit for selection.”
The other injured players in the Springbok squad, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn are not yet ready to be considered this weekend, Roberts added.
Pieter-Steph du Toit joined the squad in Johannesburg later on Monday and his progress will also be reassessed. With only 3 fit locks left in the squad, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to call up the experienced Van der Merwe.
Wallabies utility back Matt Giteau will miss his team’s clash with Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday due to a sternum injury.
Precautionary scans on his nose and chest yesterday cleared Giteau of any serious damage, after he sustained his injuries in the 24 / 20 victory over South Africa in Brisbane at the weekend, but the Wallaby management have opted to rest the 32-year old for the next stage of the tournament.
Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika said although Giteau’s absence was a setback to the team, it would be better for him to rest after a tough Test against the Springboks.
“I know how desperate Matthew was to play and continue to contribute to this group over the next week, his leadership and presence off the field will be missed,” Cheika told the Australian Rugby Union’s official website.
The Hurricanes have added another scrumhalf to their roster for 2016, signing promising talent Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
The Rotorua-born 20-year-old has been playing his rugby in Taranaki for the past 2 seasons, and has had a successful year in 2015 as part of both the New Zealand Under 20 World Championship-winning side, followed by selection in the New Zealand Barbarians team.
He was also a major player in his Taranaki club rugby side’s winning season, with his form for New Plymouth Old Boys’ helping to secure him an ITM Cup contract with Taranaki for 2015.
Tahuriorangi described the move to the Hurricanes as a massive opportunity, not only for himself, but his family.
The Melbourne Rebels have announced the signing of former Reds and All Blacks back rower, Adam Thomson, for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Thomson will bring a wealth of experience to Melbourne, having made 83 Super Rugby appearances for the Highlanders and Reds as well as winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks among 31 appearances for his country (29 Tests).
Capable of playing anywhere in the loose forwards, Thomson played alongside compatriot Tamati Ellison for both the Highlanders and All Blacks, while he worked with Rebels’ Assistant Coach Zane Hilton during their time together at Canon Eagles in Japan’s Top League. Thomson is a try-scoring back rower, having crossed 21 times at Super Rugby level.
The Wallabies have announced a 31-man touring squad for the next Round of The Rugby Championship in Argentina on Saturday 25 July.
Will Genia and Rob Horne have both been ruled out of the squad due to injury, following Australia’s 4 point victory over the Springboks in Brisbane on the weekend.
Genia suffered bone bruising and minor cartilage damage to his knee, while Horne will return to Sydney with a calf strain.
Head coach Michael Cheika said, “It’s disappointing for Will and Rob to miss this upcoming Test. They have both made an outstanding contribution to the group this past 2 weeks, and will continue to remain part of the wider squad from afar.”
“Will is due to have some minor surgery this week and we are confident he will be available for selection for the Bledisloe Cup series.
“We have taken a conservative approach with Rob and the additional week off will serve him well going into the next stage of our campaign.
Nick Cummins and Nic White will join the squad as their replacements, with 2 further additions in hooker James Hanson and prop Tetera Faulkner.
They will return as official members of the 31-man squad, after being used as additional training squad players in the lead-up to the Springboks Test.
The Australian Wallabies overturned a 13-point deficit to beat the South African Springboks 24 / 20 in an enthralling Rugby Championship contest in Brisbane on Saturday.
The TMO awarded Tevita Kuridrani a try after the final hooter, which capped a brave comeback by the hosts, who had trailed 20 / 7 early in the 2nd half.
The sides scored a try apiece late in the 1st half via Adam Ashley-Cooper and Eben Etzebeth but 2 early penalties from the boot of Handré Pollard meant the Springboks led 13 / 7 at the interval, which was a fair reflection of the opening 40 minutes.
The South African scrum was on top and their loose trio were doing well at the breakdown, although Israel Folau proved a threat every time he touched the ball for the hosts.
Test debutant Jesse Kriel announced his arrival on the international scene with a fabulous try early in the 2nd half but the visitors were made to do a huge amount of defending as Australia swung the territory and possession stats around.
A change in front-row personnel on both sides ended the Springboks’ set-piece dominance and the tandem threat of Michael Hooper and David Pocock helped the Wallabies hang onto the ball in the last half hour.
Hooper muscled his way over in the dying minutes to set up a grandstand finish, before Kuridrani managed to get the tip of the ball down on the chalk to snatch victory in dramatic style.
Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams will not travel to South Africa for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship next weekend.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named a 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg for the Test against the Springboks on 25 July with Carter and Williams being rested.
“In deciding on the squad to travel to South Africa, the selectors based their selections on 3 criteria,” explained Hansen.
“Firstly, we have picked experienced players who are well aware of the challenge of playing South Africa at home.
“Secondly, we want to give some other players the opportunity to see how they cope under the extreme pressure of playing South Africa and thirdly, we took into consideration the fact that some players in the squad could do with having a break for various reasons, so they will be staying home to freshen up.”
Hansen feels Carter and Williams deserve a break.
“Normally if we had a squad of 31, both of them would be in it and would be coming,” he said.
“Sonny has got bit of a busy schedule so we will let him have some time at home and DC can have some time at home as well – along with the other guys.”
All players who are remaining in New Zealand will be given individual training programmes to work on and will reassemble with the rest of squad in August and be available for selection for the Bledisloe Cup Tests.
New Zealand kicked off their Rugby Championship campaign with a comfortable 39 / 18 win over Argentina in Christchurch on Friday.
Impressive at scrum time, the All Blacks showed their power in defence and attack in the 1st half, running in 2 tries through Richie McCaw and Ma’a Nonu, allowing them to take an 18 / 6 halftime lead.
Despite 2 2nd-half tries from Agustin Creevy, it was the All Blacks who controlled things, running in 3 more scores through Charles Piutau, Kieran Read and debutant Codie Taylor.
The key to the game was the difference in defence, with New Zealand able to knock back runners all day long, while the Pumas were constantly on the back foot.
With quick ball, they created plenty of opportunities and were never really in danger, giving McCaw and Dan Carter a fitting farewell for their final international games in Christchurch.
Argentina had rested a number of experienced players, putting in faith in the likes of Guido Petti and Facundo Isa, who impressed last November, as well as promising winger Santiago Cordero.
In contrast New Zealand were playing the most experienced side in Test history, despite the absence of the likes of Conrad Smith, Julian Savea and Sam Whitelock. There was an All Black debut for Waisake Naholo, the Highlanders winger who topped the try-scoring charts in Super Rugby this season.