All Blacks: Thomson shocked by positional switch

Adam Thomson. Photo / Getty Images
Adam Thomson. Photo / Getty Images

Adam Thomson admits his selection at No 8 for the All Blacks' Tri-Nations rugby test against South Africa on Saturday here came as a shock initially.

The Highlanders loose forward started last Friday's win against Fiji on the blindside flank but has been shifted to the back of the scrum this week to accommodate the return to the starting lineup of Jerome Kaino.

"It was a bit of a surprise at first I thought if I was going to be selected I would probably be at six or seven so to get number eight was a bit of a shock, but in saying that it is a challenge,'' he said today.

The 29-year-old has not started a test in the No 8 jersey, but said being chucked in at the deep end against the Springboks would be a test.

"They're a physical side that you want to test yourself against. As a loose forward you love playing against the Springboks,'' he said.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry said while Thomson may be pulling on a jersey with the number eight on its back it did not mean he would play the traditional role of a No 8.

"I don't think you should take any notice of the number on the back. The players will play a different role defensively and a different role on attack,'' Henry said.

He said the team was looking to build flexibility in the side with an eye on the makeup of the replacements bench at the World Cup.

"It's just giving them their opportunity in a game situation,'' he said.

The return of Kaino to the team was one of four personnel changes to the starting 15 from the season-opening 60-14 win over Fiji in Dunedin.

His comeback means Liam Messam moves to the bench, while Samuel Whitelock returns at lock in place of last week's test debutant Jarrad Hoeata, who is a replacement.

In the backs, Daniel Carter returns to first five-eighth ahead of Colin Slade while Cory Jane has recovered from his finger injury and is on the right wing, with Zac Guildford moving to the left wing.

The key change on the bench is the selection of midfield back Sonny Bill Williams, replacing Ben Smith, for his first test appearance at home.

Henry said Slade would cover the outside backs after slotting in at fullback in the past for Canterbury.

Wing Sitiveni Sivivatu had a minor knee injury, Henry said, and was not considered for the match.

"We want to give him the opportunity of performing when he is at his best not when he's 80 percent,'' Henry said.

Other players not considered for selection include Richard Kahui (hamstring), Tony Woodcock (foot), Isaia Toeava (hip), Hosea Gear (hamstring) and Israel Dagg (thigh muscle).

Toeava will be available for Auckland's national provincial championship match against Taranaki in New Plymouth on Sunday, while Woodcock will also return to rugby next week and is available for North Harbour's match against Manawatu in Palmerston North on Tuesday.

The All Blacks and Springboks have played each other 81 times, with 45 wins to the All Blacks, 33 to South Africa and three draws.

They last met at the National Stadium in Johannesburg last year when the All Blacks won 29-22. the All Blacks have won their last three test matches at Wellington

As well as Tri-Nations points, the Freedom Cup, the trophy contested by the two teams since 2004, will again be up for grabs.

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Adam Thomson, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Ben Franks, Andrew Hore, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Corey Flynn, John Afoa, Jarrad Hoeata, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade, Sonny Bill Williams.

- NZPA

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