Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Few All Blacks left from loss to Springboks

All Black Israel Dagg Photo / Greg Bowker
All Black Israel Dagg Photo / Greg Bowker

Forget Google, the Almanacks or any other fancy memory aids and try to recall the last All Black side which played the Springboks.

Clue: The test was in Port Elizabeth before last year's World Cup and the selectors chose to rest some of their top mob.

Maybe five, perhaps only three from that starting team will survive on Saturday against the Boks in Dunedin - Israel Dagg, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock. The rest have gone overseas, are injured or like Adam Thomson and Hosea Gear are on the edge of the group.

The All Blacks were well beaten in that last encounter with the Boks. They lost 18-5 and in a twist that test was refereed by Ireland's George Clancy who is also in charge this week.

He distinguished himself with his commonsense decision to rub out a try to Jimmy Cowan after an assistant agreed there had been a forward pass.

New All Black coach Steve Hansen has not alternated his starting sides much in his first season in charge.

After the weather atrocities at the Cake Tin, he is likely to give most of that team another run.

Men like Julian Savea, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu need more work in the backs while Aaron Cruden has to begin because of Daniel Carter's injury.

Halfback may be the one area for a swap after Aaron Smith was given a solid working over by the Pumas' defence before Piri Weepu took over.

Up front Liam Messam should replace Victor Vito and there will be thoughts about lock and hooker, whether the two rookie locks deserve a repeat start ahead of Sam Whitelock.

The All Blacks want to stretch defences and apart from the first and third tests against Ireland, have not quite cracked it.

Smith is the sharper halfback with the quicker pass to deliver that scheme and may still be the best man to start at No 9.

- NZ Herald

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