Ex-All Blacks predict who will start in rematch against Springboks
A trio of former All Blacks, a current Super Rugby champion and a Tokyo Olympics gold medallist have all made their predictions as to who will start for New Zealand in their rematch against the Springboks this weekend.
The All Blacks sealed the Rugby Championship title and locked away the Freedom Cup for another year with a tense 19-17 victory over the Springboks in Townsville last Saturday.
With all pieces of silverware on offer in the Rugby Championship safely stowed away for the summer, some have tipped Foster to mix up this week’s team to help blood some youngsters against a largely unchanged Springboks outfit on the Gold Coast.
However, Foster has been outspoken of his desire to complete a rare Rugby Championship Grand Slam, which his side can achieve with a victory over South Africa at Cbus Super Stadium after having already won five of their competition matches.
With both of those perspectives in mind, it is difficult to gauge what Foster and his fellow selectors will do when it comes time to announcing their match day squad on Thursday.
According to Black Ferns Sevens star and Tokyo Olympics champion Ruby Tui, though, Foster should look to use this Saturday’s match as a chance to blood some new players against strong opposition without the fear of losing any trophies.
Speaking on The Breakdown earlier this week, Tui added that the All Blacks should reinstate Beauden Barrett and Jordie Barrett at first-five and fullback, respectively, despite the presence of recently-returned pivot Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie.
“I think for the meantime, absolutely,” she said when asked if she thinks Foster will persist with the Barrett brothers in the dual-playmaking role.
“Codie Taylor has talked about how tight they’re becoming, but, also, he can kick those long balls, and that, for me, if you’re a captain and you need three points and it is a one-point game, it is the 78th minute, I’m looking at Jordie.”
She added this week’s rematch presents the All Blacks with an opportunity to expose their younger players to South Africa’s predictably ultra-conservative tactical strategy, which she said will help with their development.
“If you’re in a situation where you’ve won this Championship, you have done it with players out of position with injuries, why not bleed them in against the Springboks,” Tui said.
“What an honour. 100 years, Freedom Cup, this is an honour to play this game, and this situation does not come around too often, so I would bleed them out, but I don’t know if they’ll take our advice.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 29, 2021
Former All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson told The Breakdown that his preference would include Brad Weber starting over TJ Perenara at halfback to provide an extra impetus to New Zealand’s attacking game, while Sir John Kirwan echoed Tui’s sentiments.
The 1987 World Cup-winning wing said inexperienced youngsters such as Tupou Vaa’i and Quinn Tupaea should start to help build depth in positions where the All Blacks are lacking.
He also rejected the notion that Mo’unga could start ahead of Beauden Barrett after completing a two-week quarantine on Tuesday to rejoin the squad in Brisbane following a seven-week break without game time.
“This is how I’d look at it because I agree with Ruby that all the cups are in the cupboard, can’t win anymore,” Kirwan told The Breakdown.
“It takes a lot of courage, but if you morph yourself two years ahead, we’re at a World Cup and someone goes down injured. Where are we really, really light at the moment? That’s where I’d go, ‘Okay, where are we worried?’
“Centre, give him [Tupaea] a crack there because we’ve got [Anton] Lienert-Brown, we’ve got some good players there, [David] Havili’s proven himself, put someone out there.
“What would you do at lock? Put the young fella [Vaa’i] and go, ‘Okay, son, there you go, have a crack at that’.
“There are a couple of positions where you go, ‘What are we doing moving forward?’, or the other option is put some of the big guns on the bench, three or four of them, and then, 10 minutes into the second half, you bring them on to bring the game home.”
By contrast, ex-All Blacks hooker James Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod that he expects minimal changes as he predicts Foster to keep the status quo in a bid to build on their tight win over the Springboks.
The former two-test international said Lienert-Brown, Dalton Papalii and Luke Jacobson, all of whom missed last week’s match due to injury, could come into consideration as the only alterations in Foster’s lineup.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 28, 2021
However, Parsons conceded it may be difficult for either one of Papalii or Jacobson to dislodge in-form rookie Ethan Blackadder after his showing four days ago.
“Ethan Blackadder has just made every post a winner. Every time he’s on that field, he has just been exceptional, so he’s right in the mix to even retain his spot, really, for the effort that he did,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“If you look about celebrating the magnificent game-winning kick of Jordie Barrett, you watch who’s doing the low chip tackle to allow Quinn Tupaea access to that ball. It’s Ethan Blackadder. He is just a man possessed.
“Big engine, big body and doing everything he can to remain in that jersey, so there will be some tough selection issues this week, but I do sometimes feel the All Blacks management will go back to saying the 23 needs to go back out there and rectify it themselves and show us what you can do.”
Maori All Blacks halfback Bryn Hall, meanwhile, added that despite George Bridge’s costly error under the high ball that gifted the Springboks their only try of the match, it remains a tough pick between him and Sevu Reece for the No 11 jersey.
The three-time Super Rugby and two-time Super Rugby Aotearoa champion labelled Bridge’s mishap as “uncharacteristic” and said his Crusaders teammate will be eager to make up for his mistake in this week’s rematch.
However, Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod that the form of Reece throughout this season has been compelling and he might have a chance to start this week following Bridge’s dropped ball.
“It’s tough because you’ve also got guys who have missed out and probably played really well and probably warranted selection,” he said.
“I think of Sevu Reece, for example. He’s played really, really well in the test matches that he has. Even when he plays for the Crusaders, he’s great aerially as well.
“I think the reason they did pick Jordie, George and Will [Jordan], they talked around a little bit taller and that height difference, knowing that that was going to come.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 28, 2021
“I don’t think George is going to make that mistake again. Jippa brought up a pretty good point around it’s uncharacteristic for him to be able to drop balls like that, especially the first try. That’s not going to happen again, especially the first try.
“Nine times out of 10, George takes that, calls a mark and kicks it out. A couple times as well, he just got his alignment wrong with being able to go up for the ball.
“I think he’ll be on that turtle a lot this week, trying to justify a few things, but, at the same time, you’ve got to give guys opportunities with Sevu.
“It was probably a 50/50, whether that be George or Sevu playing on the weekend, so they could change it there, but I don’t really know because I think it’s a real 50/50 call.
“Sevu’s played really well, George got the opportunity, would probably like to rectify a few things, but whether he’s going to be given that opportunity due to his performance on the weekend, we’re just going to have to wait and see what Fozzie and the coaches decide after that.”
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