NZ adjust for Bok power pack

2013-09-13 00:00

THE power of the Springbok pack is concerning the All Blacks, and coach Steve Hansen has beefed up his forwards for what promises to be a torrid Rugby Championship contest at Eden Park in Auckland tomorrow.

Hansen has made five changes — four in the pack — to the team that beat the Pumas last Saturday.

Looking to counter the hefty Springboks’ back row, he has recalled confrontational blind-side flank Liam Messam, while tighthead Owen Franks also returns to prop up an All Black scrum that was placed under pressure by the Pumas last Saturday. Charlie Faumuina drops to the bench.

There are two changes where experience gives way to youth. Sam Cane takes over from the injured open-side flank Richie McCaw, while Hansen, looking to the future, has selected Dane Coles in place of hooker Andrew Hore, who is expected to retire at the end of the season.

“Coles is somebody we see as the future and now is the time to give him an opportunity to go against the best,” Hansen said.

Number eight Kieran Read will take over the captaincy from McCaw.

Hansen has opted for experience in midfield, where veteran inside centre Ma’a Nonu makes his return after resting an ankle injury. He takes over from Francis Saili, who made his Test debut in the 28-13 win over the Pumas, but now drops out of the squad of 23.

Messam has been out of action for a month and Steven Luatua proved a highly capable replacement. But Hansen is expecting a heated battle at the breakdown and is looking to Messam to combat the direct approach of the Springboks’ Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw.

“In selecting the team, there were some tough decisions to be made, none more so than between Liam and Steven,” Hansen said. “But in the end, we have gone for Liam’s extra experience and physicality.

“The physical challenge will be huge and the team that executes their game with the greatest effectiveness, clarity and intensity, will be the one that comes out on top.”

News from the South African camp is that Heyneke Meyer, donning his diplomatic cap, has pooh-poohed suggestions that the Boks are unhappy that Frenchman Romain Poite is refereeing the Test.

Meyer said that Poite’s handling of the Test against Scotland in Nelspruit in June, forced a rethink of how the Springboks’ were contesting the breakdown.

“It was a sharp learning curve for us,” Meyer told reporters in Auckland yesterday. “We’ve worked hard on the breakdown and it was one area that I’ve targeted since the beginning of the year. Last Saturday [against the Wallabies] showed we have made huge improvements.

“I’m really happy with the work we’ve done at the breakdown so I don’t foresee any problems there with the referee.”

Meyer admitted that the All Blacks, who counter-ruck effectively, will test the Boks in a way that the Wallabies did not.

“We now face a different animal so we will have to be very clinical at the breakdown.”

The Springboks have named an unchanged match squad of 23 for the Test, which kicks off at 9.35 am (SA time).

NEW ZEALAND TEAM

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.

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