All Blacks name strong team
Port Elizabeth - All Blacks coach Graham Henry named a revamped team on Thursday to face South Africa in this weekend's Tri-Nations Test, as he examines New Zealand's options ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Only three of the starting side that defeated Australia 30-14 in Auckland earlier this month were named in the side to face the Springboks in Port Elizabeth.
With eight of his top players, including skipper Richie McCaw and star flyhalf Dan Carter, omitted from the touring squad to give them a breather, Henry said he wanted to see what his back-up players could produce.
“There is excitement across the board in the squad and every player will be looking to put in a big performance this weekend. Playing the Springboks at home is always a massive occasion and with Rugby World Cup spots also up for grabs, our players will be looking to put in a big performance.
“We know we will also be facing a wounded Springboks side who will want to bounce back from their three losses on the trot so we will have to be ready for a huge physical contest.”
Rugby league convert Sonny Bill Williams will make his first Test start of the year, replacing Ma'a Nonu to pair up with Richard Kahui in the centres for the first time.
Colin Slade will attempt to cement his place as Carter's back-up, with Jimmy Cowan filling in for Piri Weepu at scrumhalf.
Hooker Keven Mealamu will captain the squad in McCaw's absence, which gives Adam Thompson an opportunity to replace the regular skipper at openside flank.
Kahui, props Tony Woodcock and John Afoa, fullback Israel Dagg and wing Isaia Toeava will all return from injury keen to press their case for a berth at the World Cup starting in New Zealand next month.
The All Blacks and Springboks have played each other 82 times, with 46 wins to the All Blacks, 33 to South Africa and three draws. The All Blacks have played the Springboks four times in Port Elizabeth (1928, 1949, 1960 and 1970), with victories to South Africa on every occasion.
15 Pat Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Substitutes: 16 John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Ashley Johnson, Francois Hougaard, Butch JamesNew Zealand:
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Adam Thomson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Cory Jane