Rugby Championship

Kurt-Lee v Caleb Clarke: All Blacks coach Foster unbothered by Bok changes

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  • All Blacks coach Ian Foster isn't too fussed by the small changes the Springboks made to their side for Saturday's Test at the Mbombela Stadium.
  • Foster made a raft of changes as the All Blacks have to find a response after losing their first ever home series against Ireland.
  • Foster also chose to start with Caleb Clarke at left wing - as a direct opponent for Kurt-Lee Arendse.

In Mbombela

Kurt-Lee Arendse is an unknown quantity for the All Blacks, but their coach Ian Foster is more focused on the Springbok collective, as most coaches do.

He has tasked Caleb Clarke with looking after Arendse, for Saturday's first Rugby Championship Test between the All Blacks and the Springboks at the Mbombela Stadium.

The two wingers will be opposing each other for the first time, while hometown hero Faf de Klerk gets to start, alongside hooker Malcolm Marx, who'll be starting in his 50th Test.

READ | All Blacks coach Foster goads his charges to man up: 'The Boks are not one-trick ponies'

Foster didn't view their returns as major changes, but looked at the longer term plan the Boks are putting in place for next year's title defence in France.

"Not a lot, really, but in terms of the changes, I don't think Faf coming back in is a change," Foster said.

"He's an outstanding nine and has been a big part of their game. With Marx starting and not coming off the bench, that's probably not too significant.

"You still need to deal with him at some point, but you do know that they have a formula and they're trying to keep the same group that they've had right through to the World Cup.

"When you change one or two people, it's not going to make that much of a difference because whoever is out there is going to have a great game and play well.

"The nice thing is that we're going to have to be at our best to deal with it."

Clarke, son of former All Black and Auckland Blues player Eroni, hasn't added to his five Test caps from 2020 due to an assortment of injuries.

He's one of a raft of changes Foster made in response to last month's 32-22 defeat to Ireland in Wellington that saw them concede their first three-match series loss since 1986.

Keeping Clarke still has been a big challenge for Foster, but with Shannon Frizzell and Samisoni Taukei'aho in the match-day 23, Foster was hopeful of increased physicality.

Teams:

South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Jaden Hendrikse, 23 Willie le Roux

New Zealand

15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei'aho, 1 George Bower

Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Quinn Tupaea

"It's great having him back and there are a few niggles that kept a few people out in July," Foster said.

"He's one, Shannon Frizzell was the other and in Caleb's case, he had a hamstring, but he's a fidget and he can't keep still.

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"He's always bouncing, dancing, or doing something, which is not always the best thing to do when you're dealing with a hamstring injury.

"We've put him on a leash and told him to sit still for a while, but he's ready to go. He hasn't played for a while, so the key thing is to be himself and have a smile on his face.

"He's a quality winger and we need to get the ball in his hands and we need to get him involved. If that happens, there'll be a few more good moments."

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