Ardie Savea to make 1st test start for NZ vs. South Africa

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Flanker Ardie Savea will start a test match for the first time, replacing the injured Sam Cane in the No. 7 jersey for the All Blacks in Saturday's Rugby Championship test against South Africa at Christchurch.

Savea has made all five of his previous test appearances off the bench. But he will join his brother Julian in a New Zealand starting lineup for the first time in the absence of Cane, who suffered a serious hamstring injury during last weekend's 57-22 win over Argentina.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen considered leaving Savea on the bench, to maintain his value as an impact player, and recalling Matt Todd to the starting side for his first since last July.

But Todd has been named on the bench, allowing Savea a starting debut.

Savea's promotion is the only change to the All Blacks lineup which beat Argentina at Hamilton and which in turn contained one change from the team that had beaten Australia in Wellington two weeks earlier.

However, injury has forced a change on the bench, where Lima Sopoaga will take over as reserve flyhalf, replacing Aaron Cruden who suffered a groin injury in training this week.

Springboks coach Allister Coetzee has made two changes to his pack for Saturday's match after last weekend's 23-17 loss to Australia in Brisbane. Pieter-Steph du Toit takes over at lock from Lood de Jager, who suffered severe bruising to his knee in Brisbane and Vincent Koch joins the team at tighthead prop in place of Lourens Adriaanse.

Hooker Malcolm Marx may make a test debut from the bench while Willem Alberts joins the reserve in place of du Toit. Center Damian de Allende has also been named on the bench ahead of Lionel Mapoe.

Coetzee said he had decided on a six forward, two back split on the bench "as I believe Willem and Jaco (Kriel) will each make a big impact when they enter the field of play and I decided to swap Damian with Lionel to ensure we have cover for the inside centre position."

South Africa is being given little chance of beating New Zealand after recent losses to Australia and Argentina. But Coetzee said the rivalry between the teams was strong and would bring out the best in his team.

"Each match between these two traditional rugby rivals is always tough no matter what the circumstances are and Saturday's test is bound to be another tremendous battle," Coetzee said. "Numerous of our players will play in their first test against the All Blacks and there's a good deal of excitement in that regard."

Coetzee's comments were echoed by Hansen who said the All Blacks "respect South Africa immensely."

"We know they'll be hurting and desperate to get a result after their loss on the weekend," he said. "Therefore, our personal preparation this week will have to be at the highest level — one deep with real clarity.

"We've worked hard this week on improving in the areas we felt weren't good enough last weekend. We're confident that those areas have been addressed and our performance will be improved."


New Zealand: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Matt Todd, T.J. Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown.

South Africa: Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel, Juan de Jongh, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mohoje, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Tendai Mtawarira.

Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Lourens Adriaanse, Franco Mostert, Willem Alberts, Jaco Kriel, Morné Steyn, Damian de Allende.

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