Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea gets chance to start at No7

All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea, a whirlwind of activity as a substitute in his previous five tests, will be given the opportunity to make his mark from the first whistle against the Springboks on Saturday.

Given Sam Cane's torn hamstring suffered against the Pumas in Hamilton last weekend, Savea's selection is not surprising.

And, as Cane, the All Blacks' regular No7, is probably out for the rest of the Rugby Championship - away matches against Argentina and South Africa - Savea is set for an extended run should he remain injury-free.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has shown a willingness to go with continuity for his recent selections - there are no other changes to the starting XV.

With Crusaders flanker Matt Todd picked as Savea's back-up on the reserves bench for the test at AMI Stadium, the only other change to the match-day squad is due to an injury to Aaron Cruden.

A groin injury suffered in training has ruled him out. Lima Sopoaga is Cruden's replacement on the bench.

Hansen's consistent selection policy suggests Savea will also start in the No7 jersey against Argentina in Buenos Aires on October 2, and against South Africa in Durban a week later. It is likely to be a sort of insurance policy for the 22-year-old, who will be told to play his natural game and not try to do too much too early against the big Springboks pack.

Working in tandem with skipper Kieran Read, playing his 91st test, and the in-form Jerome Kaino, Savea will look to quickly settle into his defensive and linking roles.

His explosive ball-carrying - so eye-catching for the Hurricanes as they swept to their maiden Super Rugby championship - will be considered a bonus, at least initially.

There was a suggestion that Blues midfielder George Moala had recovered from his knee injury, but Hansen has resisted the temptation to change the Ryan Crotty/Malakai Fekitoa combination which performed well at Waikato Stadium last weekend.

Similarly, lock Luke Romano retains his position on the reserves bench after a busy night as a replacement against the Pumas.

Rather than carry two loose forwards on his bench as he did in the two tests against the Wallabies, Hansen went for a specialist lock reserve against the more physical Pumas, and has done the same for the Boks, who will present a similar challenge.

"We're really looking forward to Saturday's encounter, as South Africa is one of our traditional foes," Hansen said. "We have built up a great relationship over the past few years and respect the South Africans immensely.

"We know they'll be hurting and desperate to get a result after their loss [against Australia] on the weekend. Therefore, our personal preparation this week will have to be at the highest level - bone deep with real clarity," he added.

"We've worked hard this week on improving in the areas we felt weren't good enough last weekend. We're confident that those areas have been addressed and our performance will be improved.

"We are always striving for improvement and with South Africa having their backs to the wall, we know nothing but our best will be good enough. Accuracy with intensity will be paramount."

The matchday 23 is (with Test caps in brackets):

1. Joe Moody (16)
2. Dane Coles (42)
3. Owen Franks (83)
4. Brodie Retallick (53)
5. Samuel Whitelock (78)
6. Jerome Kaino (72)
7. Ardie Savea (5)
8. Kieran Read - captain (90)
9. Aaron Smith (53)
10. Beauden Barrett (42)
11. Julian Savea (46)
12. Ryan Crotty (20)
13. Malakai Fekitoa (18)
14. Israel Dagg (54)
15. Ben Smith (54)
16. Codie Taylor (6)
17. Wyatt Crockett (51)
18. Charlie Faumuina (39)
19. Luke Romano (25)
20. Matt Todd (3)
21. TJ Perenara (22)
22. Lima Sopoaga (2)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (2)

All Blacks v Springboks live on Radio Sport and iHeart Radio from 7pm Saturday

- NZ Herald

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