Springbok coach has kept the faith in the starting team that decimated the Wallabies 31-8 in Pretoria last week. That team showcased a lethal mix of typical Springbok grunt and aggression, mixed with the running expected from flyhalf Johan Goosen. Earlier criticized for sticking with a one dimensional game plan, such was the success of their more dynamic efforts last week, that it looks set to continue.
Exciting Springbok number 10 Johan Goosen, sure to be targeted by the All Blacks, will gain his 5th test cap in his second start. Morne Steyn remains out of the 22, with young Elton Jantjies providing cover from the bench.
It is the first time the Springboks have had a settled starting 15 in two tests in a row since 2009. Unlike the uber-experienced squads of previous years, this starting 15 boasts only 430 test caps, 162 of them in the forward pack. This contrasts with recent seasons when players like John Smith and Victor Matfield, both now retired from Internationals, would bring over 100 tests matches of experience each. However, it also reflects the grueling nature of this tournament, where teams like South Africa and Australia have had an inexplicable run with injuries. In comparison, their opponents include six players who are the most experienced All Blacks ever in their position in Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
The All Blacks have changed just two players from the team that ran riot over Argentina. At lock, Brodie Retallick replaces Luke Romano, who took a battering against the Pumas. Hosea Gear takes over from last week’s double try scorer Julian Savea. Gear will be desperate to push his credentials, following an up-and-down career with the All Blacks and mixed form in the black jersey so far in 2012. Coach Steve Hansen may be giving Gear a lifeline to push a case for the End of Year Tour, or he may just rate Gear’s experience and ability under the high ball. Both qualities will be of huge importance in the scorching hot atmosphere of the 70,000 seater FNB Stadium, Johannesburg.
Hansen has also brought more experience onto the bench. Adam Thomson, looking for his first cap in the 2012 Rugby Championship replaces Sam Cane and Ben Franks replaces Charlie Faumuina. Tamati Ellison takes over from Ben Smith as the midfield and outside backs reserve.
This will be the second to last match of the Rugby Championship, with the Pumas hosting a weakened Wallabies team in Argentina later that day. The All Blacks had already wrapped up the tournament the week earlier against Argentina, but will be looking for a clean sweep by defeating the Springboks at home. A win would give them their 16th victory in a row, one short of their best ever sequence. The streak runs back to the World Cup victory last year. Captain Richie McCaw is also chasing an impressive 100 test victory.
Springbok Team to play All Blacks:
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Reserves: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcel Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
All Blacks Team to play Springboks:
Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison