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All Blacks make four changes for Championship opener versus Boks

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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All Blacks boss Ian Foster has named a team to face the Springboks on Saturday in Nelspruit containing four changes from the XV beaten by Ireland in Wellington on July 16. Having reshuffled his backroom staff since the series loss to the Irish, Jason Ryan coming on board with John Plumtree and Brad Mooar exiting, the under-fire Foster has now unveiled a side that contains three changes to his starting pack and another switch on the wing. 

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In the backs, Caleb Clarke comes in for Sevu Reece ar No11 in the only change in that sector – it will be a first Test appearance for the 23-year-old since November 2020 against Argentina in Newcastle. Up front, though, the alterations are more plentiful.

With Brodie Retallick unavailable following his fractured cheekbone sustained in a yellow-carded tackle by Andrew Porter, the All Blacks have chosen the fit-again Scott Barrett in the second row. Barrett had originally been named to start in the third Irish Test but didn’t pitch up on matchday, his place going to Akira Ioane who keeps hold of the blindside jersey against South Africa.   

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In the front row, Samisoni Taukei’aho has been named to start at hooker in place of Codie Taylor while Angus Ta’avao – red carded in the second Test defeat by Ireland in Dunedin on July 9 – is back at tighthead in place of Nepo Laulala, who drops out of the match day 23 along with Taylor.

The bench named by Foster contains five changes from the loss in Wellington, with Dane Coles, Tupou Vaa’i and Richie Mo’unga the three repeat picks. Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot are the reserve props on this occasion instead of Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi. Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie and Quinn Tupaea are also included at the expense of Dalton Papalii, Folau Fakatava and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Foster said: “What a great way to start this year’s Rugby Championship. It’s always an exciting tournament to be part of. This year’s draw means we have a massive challenge of two games here in South Africa. We have settled in well in Mbombela and are preparing for what is always an intense game against our old foe. Many of our squad are here in South Africa for the first time. This gives us another opportunity to add new experiences and grow our game.”

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All Blacks (versus Springboks, Saturday)
1. George Bower (14)
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (11)
3. Angus Ta’avao (22)
4. Sam Whitelock (134)
5. Scott Barrett (50)
6. Akira Ioane (14)
7. Sam Cane © (80)
8. Ardie Savea (62)
9. Aaron Smith (105)
10. Beauden Barrett (104)
11. Caleb Clarke (5)
12. David Havili (16)
13. Rieko Ioane (50)
14. Will Jordan (15)
15. Jordie Barrett (39)

Replacements:
16. Dane Coles (81)
17. Ethan de Groot (4)
18. Tyrel Lomax (14)
19. Tupou Vaa’i (12)
20. Shannon Frizell (17)
21. Finlay Christie (6)
22. Richie Mo’unga (35)
23. Quinn Tupaea (9)

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