Johannesburg - Inspirational skipper Richie McCaw has returned to New Zealand's starting
lineup on Wednesday for the Rugby Championship finale in South Africa
after recovering from injury to play his 120th test and first at Ellis
McCaw's recall in place of Sam Cane at openside flanker was
one of two changes to their 15 for the world champion All Blacks, who
are on the brink of a 12th southern hemisphere title in 18 seasons and
have won seven of their last eight games against the Springboks.
McCaw had recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the
recent wins over the Springboks at home and Argentina away, Owen Franks
was ruled out by a groin injury and replaced at tighthead prop by
Charlie Faumuina. Franks' brother, Ben, moved up to the bench alongside
Cane and hooker Dane Coles. Andrew Hore will again wear the No. 2
New Zealand needs only a losing bonus point on Saturday to
clinch the title, but is back at near full-strength and instead
focusing on finishing with a perfect six wins from six in the
championship. South Africa must win and score four tries and deny the
All Blacks a bonus point to steal the title.
The All Blacks have
said throughout the week that they are excited and not intimidated by
the chance to play at Johannesburg's Ellis Park, the 65,000-seat
inner-city cauldron where New Zealand lost the 1995 World Cup final and
has won only one of four games since.
"Playing the Springboks at
Ellis Park is a challenge that this team is really looking forward to,"
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "We know the South Africans will
come at us with their physical game but to win the championship they
will have to do that by scoring four tries so we are expecting more ball
movement than we have seen in the past.
"So the answer is pretty
simple for us — we will have to match their physicality and be very
accurate with our execution across the park, both on attack and
While the 21-year-old Cane impressed when he stepped
in, McCaw's vast experience and leadership skills, and his cleverness
at the breakdown, will be a valuable addition.
"I don't think
it'll make a difference to the approach of our game but clearly he's our
captain," said assistant coach Ian Foster. "The young fella there
(Cane) did a fantastic job last week so I don't think it's going to
change much in the way we go about it, but going into a big game it's
great to have everyone on deck and available and it gives us more
Winger Ben Smith, with seven tries in this year's
competition, is one away from breaking the single tournament record he
shares with South Africa wing Bryan Habana and former All Blacks
fullback Christian Cullen.
Kick-off for Saturday's crucial encounter is at 17:05.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14
Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht/Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers
(captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane
Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben
Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
16, Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19
Franco van der Merwe, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23
Jan Serfontein/Juan de Jongh
Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian
Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw
(captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie
Faumuina, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Dane
Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane,
21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau