New Zealand made four changes to face South Africa in their Rugby Championship match in Dunedin this weekend, including dropping scrum-half Aaron Smith for a disciplinary breach.
Piri Weepu comes in for his first start of 2012 after Smith, who made his Test debut against Ireland in June, broke a team protocol regarding post-match rehabilitation, the New Zealand Herald cited All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as saying.
“He broke a non-negotiable and the consequences are that you don’t start if you break them,” Hansen was cited as saying, adding that it would be wrong to assume the 23-year-old Smith’s indiscretion involved alcohol or curfews.
In the other starting changes to the team that beat Argentina 21-5 last week, Andrew Hore replaces Keven Mealamu at hooker, Liam Messam starts at blindside flanker ahead of Victor Vito and Samuel Whitelock takes over at lock with Brodie Retallick dropping to the bench.
The match will be the world champion All Blacks first Test at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, which has a transparent roof.
New Zealand tops the southern hemisphere championship standings with 12 points after three of six rounds, a lead of five over South Africa, with Australia on four points and Argentina on two.
“At the halfway stage we are very happy from a results point of view,” Hansen said in a team statement. “There is a second challenge we have set ourselves -- to constantly improve our game -- and in that regard we are not the finished product.”
NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Samuel Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Tamati Ellison.
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