The All Blacks team has been named to play the Investec Championship – Freedom Cup match against South Africa at QBE Stadium, Auckland, on Saturday 16 September 2017.
The matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:
1. Kane Hames (2)
2. Dane Coles (51)
3. Nepo Laulala (6)
4. Brodie Retallick (67)
5. Samuel Whitelock (90)
6. Liam Squire (10)
7. Sam Cane (47)
8. Kieran Read (103) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (64)
10. Beauden Barrett (56)
11. Rieko Ioane (6)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (39)
13. Ryan Crotty (29)
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder (9)
15. Damian McKenzie (5)
16. Codie Taylor (22)
17. Wyatt Crockett (64)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (7)
19. Scott Barrett (10)
20. Ardie Savea (19)
21. TJ Perenara (36)
22. Lima Sopoaga (10)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (16)
In the forwards, prop Kane Hames gets his first start in his third Test, in for the injured Joe Moody, while Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are reunited in the second row. Liam Squire has been named at six, with Sam Cane back at seven. Ardie Savea is loose forward cover. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the 23 for his 65th Test with TJ Perenara on the bench, Ryan Crotty is back at centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown in the reserves, and Rieko Ioane is back on the left wing.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Our big focus this week has been about continual improvement, growing ourselves as a team, growing our game and how we want to play it, and how we want to play against different opposition. Sunday to Friday gives us the opportunity to look at ourselves individually and collectively and get better as a team. We need the games we are getting at the moment, we’ve had a bit of adversity, and that will only make us better.”
Hansen said South Africa would be a dangerous beast this weekend.
“They scrummage well, they attack well with the ball and their defence is getting better. So that’s basically the game. We know they’re a tough opponent – they’re always a tough opponent. There’s a long-standing history and rivalry between our two teams. We enjoy playing them, they play hard and it’s always competitive. But afterwards they’re always keen to catch up for a chat and a beer.”
To watch Steve Hansen talk about the team, click here.
* Beauden Barrett last weekend became the first international player in 2017 to score 100 points. He has also scored 401 points in his All Blacks career and is fourth on the all-time All Blacks points-scoring list.
* All Blacks Captain Kieran Read plays his 104th Test match this weekend, overtaking Ma’a Nonu as the fifth most capped All Black of all time.
* Brodie Retallick has played 67 Tests – the same as great All Blacks lock Chris Jack, who played between 2001 and 2007. Retallick will this weekend become the third most capped All Blacks lock of all time, behind Sam Whitelock and Ali Williams (77).
* Aaron Smith and Wyatt Crockett will play their 65th Tests this weekend, while Sonny Bill Williams will play his 40th and midfield partner Ryan Crotty his 30th.
* The All Blacks and South Africa have played each other 93 times in their storied history, with 55 wins to the All Blacks, 35 to South Africa and three draws.
* This will be the first Test at QBE Stadium since South Africa defeated Samoa 13-5 at the 2011 World Cup, and the first time New Zealand have played a Test there since brushing past Fiji in a 91-0 win in 2005.
* The All Blacks won The Rugby Championship in 2012 – 2014 and again in 2016, have held the Freedom Cup (played between New Zealand and South Africa) since 2010 and the Bledisloe Cup (played between New Zealand and Australia) since 2003.