Under-fire All Blacks swing ax for Springboks

Under-fire All Blacks coach Ian Foster has swung the ax for Sunday’s (1.05am AEST) blockbuster Rugby Championship opener against the Springboks in Mbombela.

Foster has made four changes to the starting XV that lost a series to Ireland for the first time in Wellington.

Out go Brodie Retallick (injured), Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala and Sevu Reece and in come Scott Barrett, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Angus Ta’avao and Caleb Clarke.

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There are also mass changes on the bench where Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie and Quinn Tupaea have been added.

Tupaea’s return forces Roger Tuivasa-Sheck out of the squad after the ex-NRL star made his Test debut in Wellington.

New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson has only guaranteed Foster’s survival for the two Tests in South Africa to open the tournament against the world champions.

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Foster’s assistants John Plumtree and Brad Mooar were sacked after the Ireland series which triggered a fierce reaction in New Zealand.

“There’s a lot of disappointment and the keyboard warriors came out for sure,” All Blacks great Mils Muliaina said on Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven.

“They were after blood and two assistant coaches were let go. Ian Foster is under immense pressure…they’ve had to reset. The knives were out so it’s probably a good time to go over there and refocus.

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“There’s no doubt we’ve got the players and I think they’ve had too many game plans within a game plan. The players seemed confused as to what to go to and they folded under pressure.

“Will he (Foster) be rolled – there’s a lot of pressure that it could happen (if the All Blacks go 0-2 in South Africa).”

Foster said back-to-back Tests against the Springboks was “a great way” to start the tournament and “a massive challenge.”

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“We have settled in well in Mbombela and are preparing for what is always an intense game against our old foe,” Foster said.

“Many of our squad are here in South Africa for the first time.

“This gives us another opportunity to add new experiences and grow our game.”

ALL BLACKS (15-1): Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (c), Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukeiaho, George Bower

Reservations: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo’unga, Quinn Tupaea

SPRINGBOKS (15-1): Damian Willemse, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane

Reservations: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Jaden Hendrikse, Willie le Roux

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