Hansen turns to old guard for springboks test
The double-edged sword of having to prepare for a World Cup defence and still win every game in between has never been more evident for New Zealand coach Steve Hansen than this weekend when his side face South Africa.
Hansen has highlighted his 2015 World Cup plans by giving young hooker Dane Coles his third start in his ninth Test for tomorrow's Rugby Championship match (8.35 Irish time) at Eden Park.
But he resisted continuing the development of Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua for the hotly anticipated encounter, opting instead to restore first-choice prop Owen Franks and flanker Liam Messam after they returned from injuries.
Franks, still only 25, will earn his 50th Test cap tomorrow and is considered one of the best tighthead props in the world, while blindside Messam's inclusion at the expense of Luatua was for his experience and physicality around the ruck.
The decision to reinstall the pair was no doubt to combat the fierce confrontation Hansen expects from the Springboks pack, who battered Australia 38-12 last week.
The win in Brisbane gave them a nine-match winning streak and they arrive confident they could be the first Springboks team to beat the All Blacks at home since John Smit's side recorded a 32-29 victory in Hamilton in 2009.
New Zealand – I Dagg; B Smith, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; T Woodcock D Coles, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, L Messam, S Cane, K Read (capt). Reps: K Mealamu, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Luatua, M Todd, T Kerr-Barlow, B Barrett, C Piutau
South Africa – Z Kirchner; W Le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, J de Villiers (capt), B Habana; M Steyn, R Pienaar; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, F van der Merwe, F Louw, W Alberts, D Vermeulen. Reps: A Strauss, G Steenkamp, C Oosthuizen, J Kruger, S Kolisi, J Vermaak, P Lambie, J Serfontein.
Ref – R Poite (France)