All Blacks: Four changes in side to take on Springboks

By Wynne Gray

Adam Thomson. Photo / Christine Cornege
Adam Thomson. Photo / Christine Cornege

Adam Thomson will complete a full set of All Black loose forward roles when he starts at No 8 against the Springboks on Saturday.

The regular flanker has been switched to begin at No 8 for the start of the Tri-Nations as the selectors use the chance to sift their squad to settle on the best backups for Kieran Read.

While Read, other Crusaders and Keven Mealamu are on family leave for the first two All Black tests this winter, the selectors have been able to mix their loose forward choices and test some theories.

Liam Messam was No 8 in Dunedin with backup from captain Richie McCaw while Thomson gets the job at the Cake Tin on Saturday.

It will be his first All Black run in the No 8 jersey after switching between open and blindside work in his 18 tests since his debut in 2008.

The other changes from Carisbrook are the selections of Cory Jane, Daniel Carter, Jerome Kaino and Samuel Whitelock with Sitiveni Sivivatu, Colin Slade, Liam Messam and Jarrad Hoeata dropping out or into the reserves.

Positional switches come for Zac Guildford who switches wings and Thomson while Sonny Bill Williams is a new face in the reserves in place of Ben Smith.

The selectors have tried to ease the workload on the Crusaders after their massive travel schedule during the Super 15 season.

They knew the All Blacks would ease past Fiji and from what the second-string Springboks showed last week against the Wallabies, something similar might occur this Saturday.

The Boks were third-rate while the Wallabies had razor-sharp patches which were far too potent for the visitors.

This is a chance for the All Black selectors to experiment a bit more, to look at those who may be borderline for offshore Tri-Nations work or the World Cup.

It is a chance to tinker with combinations, reinforce others and get some miles back in the legs of those such as Ali Williams who have been out for so long.

Springbok coach Pieter de Villiers has given them that option by bringing a squad without 21 frontline Springboks who, while allegedly not fit for play, have been at a training camp in Rustenburg.

While the All Black plan has been to ease the work for the Crusaders, half of the pack are from red and black country with another couple in the backline and two in the reserves.

McCaw needs to play after his season was interrupted by injury and concussion and other Crusaders have been needed or assessed as fresh enough to continue with rugby.

Jane gets his chance to play because of injuries to others in the back three. He has also convinced the medical staff he is fit after a severe finger dislocation a fortnight ago.

Like Sivivatu last week in Dunedin, this may be Jane's last chance to reveal enough of his pedigree to challenge the selectors' thoughts for the World Cup.

At the moment he, Sivivatu, Ben Smith and Crockett have been named as standby players in the extended squad preparing for the Tri-Nations.

But injuries to Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear, Richard Kahui and form fluctuations of others mean the World Cup quintet to fill the fullback wing roles is still unresolved.

If the All Blacks use their whole bench this weekend against the Springboks, 10 of the 34-strong group will not have played a test this year.

But they will be fresh for the Wallabies at Eden Park.

All Blacks:
1. Wyatt Crockett, 2. Andrew Hore, 3. Ben Franks, 4. Samuel Whitelock,
5. Ali Williams, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 8. Adam Thomson, 9. Jimmy Cowan, 10. Daniel Carter, 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Ma'a Nonu, 13. Conrad Smith, 14. Cory Jane, 15. Mils Muliaina.

Reserves: 16. Corey Flynn, 17. John Afoa, 18. Jarrad Hoeata, 19. Liam Messam, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Colin Slade, 22. Sonny Bill Williams

- NZ Herald

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