All Blacks fear Bok backlash in second clash

2008-07-08 00:00

WELLINGTON — The All Blacks have made just two changes as they set their sights on a clean sweep of the two Tri-Nations home Tests against South Africa in Dunedin on Saturday.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry expressed his faith in the team which outmuscled the World Cup champions 19-8 in Wellington at the weekend.

The replacement of tighthead prop Greg Somerville by John Afoa is the only unforced change.

The week-long suspension of lock Brad Thorn for an illegal tackle on Springbok skipper John Smit in the first Test means Anthony Boric will partner Ali Williams in the second row.

Henry told reporters the experience and aggression of Thorn would be missed.

“But the other fella comes in fresh, excited, good lineout player, good athlete,” Henry said of Boric.

“He’s done everything he can … so he’s just waiting to get the opportunity. I’m sure he will nail it.”

Afoa returns from a knee injury to grab the tighthead spot ahead of Somerville.

Forwards coach Steve Hansen said Somerville — nicknamed Yoda after the squat Star Wars character — had a tough season with the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super 14 and had played the last two Tests.

“He’s a bit sore, so we’ve taken the opportunity to bring Johnny back in and give Yoda the opportunity to bounce back from that.”

Lock Ali Williams is still suffering soreness from an ankle injury suffered against England last month, but is expected to do battle again on Saturday after a rampaging peformance in the first Test.

Uncapped lock Kevin O’Neill comes into the reserves due to the promotion of Boric.

Mils Muliaina will be playing his 46th Test at fullback, surpassing the All Black record for the position set by Christian Cullen.

Henry warned the challenge of beating the Springboks would be even greater in Dunedin.

“This test will be much tougher than last week, and last week was extremely tough,” Henry said.

“The South Africans are a very good side and they’ll play a lot better than they did last week. So we think we’re in for a hell of a week.”

South Africa will name its team tomorrow, but hooker Smit will be missing, returning home for treatment of the groin strain suffered in Thorn’s tackle.

Schalk Brits has been brought in as cover for Smit, although Bismarck du Plessis is expected to start the Dunedin Test.

Lock Victor Matfield will skipper the Springboks and coach Peter de Villiers is confident he will fill the gap left by Smit.

“Victor’s got great leadership abilities, the players respect him too, he’s already our official vice- captain,” De Villiers said.

“I don’t think it will be such a great loss.”

All Blacks (15-1)

Mils Muliaina, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Rudi Wulf, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Jerome Kaino, Rodney So’oialo (captain), Adam Thomson, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, John Afoa, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock

Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Neemia Tialata, Kevin O’Neill, Sione Lauaki, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Leon MacDonald

— Sapa-AFP.

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