Following a dreadful 2016 that ended with four consecutive defeats at the hands of the All Blacks, England, Italy and Wales, the Springboks have enjoyed a much-improved 2017.
The All Blacks have claimed successive victories against Australia and beat Argentina 39-22, but, with injuries prompting coach Steven Hansen to call on some relatively raw talent, Read is expecting a tough challenge.
“The changes to the team force you to focus on different things each week, and you’ve got to realign yourself to make sure you’ve got the alignment between the coaches and all the players,” Read said.
“It’s a squad game now, and certainly has been this year with the amount of guys coming in and out.
“I’ve just continually tried to push myself and, in doing so, hopefully the boys can follow me.”
Despite Vaea Fifita’s fine performance against Argentina, Liam Squire comes in for him at blindside flanker. Aaron Smith returns at scrum-half and Ryan Crotty ousts Anton Lienert-Brown at outside centre.
For South Africa, Ruan Dreyer is in line for his second test appearance after replacing Coenie Oosthuizen at tighthead prop because of the latter’s broken arm. Flanker Jaco Kriel is also out, opening the door for Jean-Luc du Preez.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 15, 2017
HEAD TO HEAD
All Blacks: 55
South Africa: 35
Dane Coles (New Zealand): With two inexperienced props playing either side of the hooker, Coles’ experience of 51 Test matches will be pivotal if the All Blacks are to avoid a first defeat to South Africa since 2014.
Jean-Luc du Preez (South Africa): Kriel has been pivotal at the breakdown and in defence for the Springboks and Du Preez will need to replicate that contribution if his absence is not to have a telling impact.
All Blacks: Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kane Hames, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.
Springboks: Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Francois Hougaard; Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Ruan Dreyer, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi, Jean-Luc du Preez, Uzair Cassiem.
New Zealand captain Kieran Read: “It’s important for us to finish our year at home well. We can’t wait to do that. We want to be challenged, and we’ll certainly get that tomorrow [Saturday].”
South Africa coach Allister Coetzee: “I don’t see any weaknesses in the All Black side. I think they are vulnerable but you still have to be at your best to exploit that.”
– The All Blacks have won nine of their last 10 games against the Springboks, including each of their last four and a 42-point win when they last met, which stands as the biggest win in the history of the fixture.
– South Africa are yet to be defeated away from home in 2017 (W1, D1); the last time they played more than two games away from home in a calendar year without losing was 1971 (W3).
– Jaco Kriel tops the tackles charts (38) after three rounds, however, Coenraad Oosthuizen has made more than any other player who is yet to miss one (32/32).
– Elton Jantjies (49) has opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the point-scoring leaderboard for The Rugby Championship 2017, and is yet to miss a conversion attempt (10).
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