All Blacks coach Ian Foster has recalled his rested stars for Saturday's historic Test against the Springboks in Townsville - the 100th match between the two proud rugby outfits.
Foster changed up the look of the team last week to allow some of his first-choice players to rest from the side's second Test against Argentina, but the newlook outfit still earned in a comfortable 36-13 win.
With bodies refreshed, Foster has made eight changes to the line-up from last week.
In the starting front row, Joe Moody retains the number one starting jersey and Nepo Laulala is back in the number three jersey, with Codie Taylor returning at starting hooker. Props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi, along with hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, are front row reserves.
In the second row, the veteran Brodie Retallick returns alongside Scott Barrett, with Patrick Tuipulotu the reserve lock.
In the loose forwards, an in-form Akira Ioane is at blindside flanker, captain Ardie Savea is at seven and Luke Jacobson has won the hotly-contested No.8 jersey with Ethan Blackadder the loose forward cover from the bench.
In the backs, TJ Perenara is again at halfback, with Beauden Barrett back in the starting 10 jersey in his 97th Test.
David Havili returns at second five-eighth, Rieko Ioane is again at centre and the starting back three from last week’s Test are retained, with George Bridge again on the left wing, Will Jordan on the right wing and Jordie Barrett at fullback.
Halfback Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie and midfielder Quinn Tupaea are the back reserves.
Foster said his side is fizzing for the historic occasion.
“The whole team is excited at what lies ahead this weekend. The group is working hard, we have been building our performances and we’ve put ourselves in a great position to win the Rugby Championship and that’s really exciting for the team. The fact that it is against South Africa is pretty special.”
Foster said his forward pack selections reflected the tough battle they expect up front.
“It’s a tough pack to pick at the moment because there are a lot of players putting their hands up and there were some players who played well last week.”
“But we have got some very good combinations that we have worked on since the start of the Championship. It’s great to have experienced players like Joe Moody, Ofa Tuungafasi and Patrick Tuipulotu back. It has given us a great starting pack and a strong bench.”
Foster said the team was looking forward to playing in the 100th Test match, but had a narrow focus this week.
“For us, as a team, we’re trying to zone in on what we want to do in this game. We are all aware of the history and legacy of this match and respect that, but the only way we can do justice to that is to prepare well and focus on what we have to do.
“We’re excited and getting ready for what will be a huge challenge. It will be the first time a number of our guys have played South Africa so they’re excited and ready for it,” Foster said.
All Blacks [caps]
1. Joe Moody (52)
2. Codie Taylor (62)
3. Nepo Laulala (35)
4. Brodie Retallick (87)
5. Scott Barrett (46)
6. Akira Ioane (8)
7. Ardie Savea (54) – captain
8. Luke Jacobson (9)
9. TJ Perenara (73)
10. Beauden Barrett (96)
11. George Bridge (15)
12. David Havili (9)
13. Rieko Ioane (42)
14. Will Jordan (8)
15. Jordie Barrett (30)
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (6)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (22)
18. Ofa Tuungafasi (40)
19. Patrick Tuipulotu (39)
20. Ethan Blackadder (5)
21. Brad Weber (12)
22. Damian McKenzie (35)
23. Quinn Tupaea (3)