All Blacks beef up on muscle with four changes for Test against Boks
It's time to move forward for All Blacks coach Ian Foster.
He watched his team take too many backward steps against Ireland and is hoping to slip out of reverse gear by making four changes for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against the Springboks in Mbombela.
Tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao and hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho are new members of the front row, while fit-again Scott Barrett will be deployed at lock in place of the injured Brodie Retallick.
While Barrett's inclusion will bring the All Blacks greater dexterity among their heavy operators, Retallick's grunt and unrelenting physical presence will be missed.
On that score, the inclusion of Ta'avao and Taukei'aho is perhaps a tacit admission the All Blacks coaches were far from pleased with their team's performance in the collisions, whether from set-piece play or otherwise, in their most recent encounters.
In the backline the hulking Caleb Clarke comes in for the slippery Sevu Reece, perhaps also a sign of a more confrontational approach from the All Blacks, who were beaten to the punch in the physicality stakes in their loss to Ireland.
Clarke missed the series against Ireland because of injury, but his muscular frame will be regarded as an asset if he is able to isolate his direct opponent, Kurt-Lee Arendse. Of course, Arendse's elusive running could cause similar consternation in the All Blacks' ranks should he find space.
Given his experience earned in about 60 Tests, hooker Codie Taylor's omission from the match-day group is surprising. Taukei'aho only made his debut last year, but in substitute Dan Coles the All Blacks have a player who has delivered some telling contributions at the back end of matches on SA soil.
Apart from Coles and Richie Mo’unga the All Blacks substitutes’ bench has a new look. Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie and Quinn Tupaea got the nod.
Loose forward Dalton Papalii, scrumhalf Folau Fakatava and midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck have been dropped, while lumbering lock Patrick Tuipulotu is also a notable absentee.
All Blacks team to play the Springboks: Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Angus Ta'avao, Samisoni Taukei'aho, George Bower. Substitutes: Dane Cales, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, Quinn Tupaea.