All Blacks: Hosea Geared up to shine

By Michael Brown

If ever there was a player who has been given multiple chances by the All Blacks but not always taken them, it's Hosea Gear. Photo / Getty Images.
If ever there was a player who has been given multiple chances by the All Blacks but not always taken them, it's Hosea Gear. Photo / Getty Images.

If ever there was a player who has been given multiple chances by the All Blacks but not always taken them, it's Hosea Gear.

The 28-year-old wing gets another one this weekend in a puzzling career. Sunday morning's (NZT) test against South Africa in Soweto is only his 13th in five years, which proves he is enduring but also that he has failed to flatter.

He comes into the starting side for Julian Savea, who scored a double in the 54-14 defeat of Argentina in La Plata last weekend and who coach Steve Hansen said had not been dropped but "rotated".

Hansen felt Savea would benefit from a "learning experience of a different kind" by being rested.

"[Savea] is a young player and we felt he's had enough pressure on him," Hansen said. "It's just a good time to let him step back out of the cauldron and just have a wee breather and evaluate what he has achieved and, at the same time, give Hosea an opportunity.

"We have a maximum of 28 people here and everyone needs a chance from time to time. H (Gear) has worked hard.

"It's important now for Hosea to step in and step up. He did that the last time we did this. He played particularly well last time against Ireland [in June]. It was probably one of his best tests. I'm expecting him to have a big game."

Gear is a strong ball runner who is at his best from broken play. He's also an aggressive one-on-one defender and safe under the high ball, a prerequisite for a modern wing.

His best run in the black jersey came in 2010 when he played four tests on the end-of-year tour but he initially missed out on selection for the World Cup the following year until a late callup as a replacement for the injured Mils Muliaina.

Gear has flirted with the idea of playing overseas - he was on the verge of signing earlier this year to play in Japan before a change of mind to focus on the All Blacks - and might again when his present deal expires next year if he continues to oscillate in and out of the All Blacks.

Hansen admitted Savea has a long future in the black jersey. Gear's chances are less certain and he agreed with Hansen's assessment that it was time to step up.

"He's probably right," Gear said. "I want to do my job and put in a really good performance for myself and the side.

"It's a bit more mental than anything. I haven't had a lot of time to go through all the moves. Really, I just want to try to go out there and do my job."

The All Blacks are looking to continue a winning streak that presently sits at 15 but the Springboks at altitude probably presents the toughest assignment of the year. South Africa also go into the match buoyed by their 31-8 defeat of Australia at Loftus Versfeld last weekend, when young first five-eighths Johan Goosen ensured they played with more creativity and flair than they had previously in the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks have already sewn up the inaugural Rugby Championship title but love nothing more than beating the Springboks in South Africa and did so in dramatic fashion in 2010 in the last occasion they played at Soccer City.

It's part of the reason Hansen has made only two changes to the starting lineup - lock Brodie Retallick comes in for Luke Romano who is sporting a collection of stitches on his face - while Tamati Ellison, Ben Franks and Adam Thomson come onto the bench.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison.

Springboks: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jaco Taute, Jean de Villiers (c), Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Tiaan Liebenberg, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee. Elton Jantjies, Juan de Jongh, Pat Lambie.

- APNZ

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