Desperate All Blacks coach Ian Foster has placed his faith in Richie Mo’unga while benching two-time world player of the year Beauden Barrett to tackle the Springboks.
Barrett hurt his neck in a spectacular fall last weekend which earned Kurt-Lee Arendse a four-week ban after being red carded in South Africa’s 26-10 win.
But the five-eighth was cleared to play and has been named on New Zealand’s bench as Crusaders maestro Mo’unga gets his first Test start of the season at Ellis Park.
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“Belief and confidence remain high in our group, which is working incredibly hard this week,” Foster said.
“Playing at Ellis Park is always a special occasion for any All Black team, and this weekend will be no different.
“Adding to that, the Freedom Cup is on the line which makes this a challenge that everyone is looking forward to.”
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The All Blacks have lost three straight Tests and slumped to a historic low of fifth in the world rankings.
Reports out of New Zealand suggest Foster will be expected to resign should the Kiwis lose again at South Africa’s intimidating rugby stronghold on Sunday (AEST).
In other changes, Foster has revamped his front row with props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax promoted in place of George Bower and Angus Ta’avao, who had a torrid time scrummaging in the first Test.
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Shannon Frizell, a try-scorer last weekend, has also been injected into the starting line-up in place of Akira Ioane at blindside flanker, while Crusaders prop Fletcher Newell is set to make his debut off the bench.
All Blacks great Mils Muliaina told Stan Sport’s Rugby Heaven that he couldn’t see New Zealand winning in Johannesburg but Andrew Mehrtens and Morgan Turinui gave the tourists a puncher’s chance.
“After re-watching the game it wasn’t actually all doom and gloom,” Mehrtens said.
“There was a lot of good play last weekend. But the lack of skill level has been a little bit uncharacteristic from the All Blacks.”
Turinui said if there was one team you’d back to win at Ellis Park, it would be the All Blacks.
“I think they’re a live chance,” Turinui said.
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“They’re still not dealing with that rush defense but I don’t think it would take much for the All Blacks to bounce back hard.”
Meanwhile, the Springboks have been forced into a late change after hooker Bongi Mbonambi went down with a knee injury at training.
Joseph Dweba will start just his third Test instead with last weekend’s standout Malcolm Marx poised to wreak havoc from the bench.
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“We have an important Rugby Championship tour coming up and a year-end tour later, so we don’t want to take any risks with Bongi,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said.
“Joseph has been working hard at training and he’s been waiting patiently for his luck, and we feel that he doesn’t get better than facing the All Blacks, who are one of the best teams in the world.
“He and Ox (Nche) have played close to 100 first class games together, and they know each other well on and off the field, having played together since school level… we believe their familiarity will give us the best chance in this match.”
SPRINGBOKS (15-1): Damian Willemse, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Jaden Hendrikse, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche
Reservations: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Kwagga Smith, Hershel Jantjies, Willie le Roux
ALL BLACKS (15-1): Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (c), Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ethan by Groot
Reservations: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Tupou Vaa’i, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea
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