New Zealand recalled blindside flanker Liam Messam in one of five starting changes for this weekend’s Rugby Championship match against South Africa as the two top-ranked teams in the world meet in Auckland.
Messam replaces Steven Luatua, who moves to the bench, in the back row after recovering from a calf injury. Prop Owen Franks, hooker Dane Coles, inside center Ma’a Nonu and openside flanker Sam Cane also start in the other changes to the lineup from last week’s win against Argentina.
“In selecting the team, there were some tough decisions to be made, none more so than between Liam and Steven,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a statement. “But in the end we have gone for Liam’s extra experience and physicality and we also know that Steven will enter the contest at some stage.”
No. 8 Kieran Read will captain the top-ranked All Blacks at Eden Park, where they are on a 30-match winning streak, in the absence of the injured Richie McCaw.
South Africa, which leads the southern hemisphere championship standings by a point, was the last team to avoid defeat to New Zealand at the stadium, drawing 18-18 there in 1994. The Springboks yesterday named an unchanged 23-man squad from last week’s 38-12 against Australia in Brisbane.
NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Matt Todd, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.