The All Blacks will return to full strength for the historic 100th Test match between the All Blacks and South Africa on Saturday as they seek to seal this year’s Rugby Championship.
Coach Ian Foster made eight changes to his starting lineup for the Test in Townsville, Australia, recalling veterans including playmaker Beauden Barrett and influential lock Brodie Retallick.
Flank Ardie Savea again captains the team after leading an experimental side to victory over Argentina last week.
Foster said he was excited to face South Africa for the first time since taking over as head coach after the 2019 World Cup, when the Springboks became world champions.
“This has got a bit of a legacy moment feel about it – 100 Tests and 100 years, it certainly makes it special, along with the fact we haven’t played South Africa for a couple of years,” he said.
But Foster said the All Blacks, who top the Rugby Championship table and can wrap up the tournament with a win, were not dwelling on the match’s historic importance.
“We are all aware of the history and legacy of this match and respect that, but the only way we can do justice to that is to prepare well and focus on what we have to do,” he said.
The majority of Foster’s changes were up front, an area where he said the All Blacks expect a “torrid” time from the physical South Africans.
Prop Joe Moody is the only remaining member of the tight five that started against Argentina, with Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett and Retallick all brought in.
Luke Jacobson and Akira Ioane line up alongside Savea in the back row.
Beauden Barrett returns at flyhalf with Damian McKenzie moving to the bench and David Havili replaces Quinn Tupaea in the centres.
“We’re excited and getting ready for what will be a huge challenge,” Foster said.
“It will be the first time a number of our guys have played South Africa, so they’re excited and ready for it.”
All Blacks – 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea (c), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ethan Blackadder, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Quinn Tupaea.
© Agence France-Presse