For the last year or so, Jack Goodhue has been the future for the All Blacks in terms of their midfield and now he's their present as well after being selected alongside Sonny Bill Williams in a strong side to play South Africa.

If the 23-year-old centre does the basics well at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday morning, and trusts himself and the players around him, it will probably see him cement his position in the No 13 jersey ahead of Ryan Crotty (named on the reserves bench) and Anton Lienert-Brown (left out altogether).

"He's playing well; not to say that Ryan's not, but he's playing very well and we want to see that combination of him and Sonny," coach Steve Hansen said. "We last saw it in the French series. We know a lot about Ryan and Jack but we don't know a lot about Sonny and Jack. All year we've been trying to work out what's our best combination in that area for the future and this is an opportunity to do that."

Predictably, Owen Franks is back at tighthead prop, with No 8 Kieran Read and halfback Aaron Smith also returning as the All Blacks seek to overturn their defeat by the Springboks in Wellington three weeks ago.


It's Goodhue's selection which stands out, though, for his youth and relative inexperience and what it represents in terms of the selectors' thinking.

The 30-year-old Crotty has been a dependable player and unlucky too given his terrible run of injuries and in particular concussions. Crotty is also a more dangerous attacker than many give him credit for, but there is a sense of a changing of the guard in Goodhue's selection and it's up to him to make the most of it.

Goodhue's last test was off the bench against the Boks in Wellington and he brought a directness and calmness to the attack which was probably missing elsewhere from Hansen's men. Such is his level-headedness, he's unlikely to be fazed by the potential enormity of his selection even allowing for the fact he has played only five tests and started only one alongside Williams.

Jack Goodhue will partner Sonny Bill Williams in midfield against the Springboks. Photo / Getty
Jack Goodhue will partner Sonny Bill Williams in midfield against the Springboks. Photo / Getty

"For a young guy he's got an old head on him," Hansen said. "He plays really maturely. He's a traditional centre, I think, in that he's got the ability to put people into space. He's a good reader on defence and he's got a bit of gas as well."

"It was a pretty straightforward team to pick, really, to be honest, even in talking about what we want to do with Jack and that was a pretty easy one too."

Another talking point is the backline cover on the bench, where Richie Mo'unga will be given another chance to repeat his impact from that position last weekend against Argentina in Buenos Aires, with Crotty being given a relatively unfamiliar role there and TJ Perenara resuming his back-up role to Aaron Smith.

Hansen said it was probably too much to ask from Damian McKenzie, now with the team in Johannesburg after he flew home from Buenos Aires due to a family bereavement, to back it up with a playing role on Sunday.

"Damian had to fly home from Argentina and then back so he's had an extra flight. To throw another game in as well, he probably doesn't need that," Hansen said.


Likewise, Lienert-Brown had relatively high recent playing minutes, albeit off the bench mainly, and was due for a rest.

Lock Brodie Retallick remains a conspicuous absentee due to a shoulder injury suffered against the Pumas in Nelson last month but there is an experience and solidity to the match-day squad that the All Blacks will need for what has become a highly-anticipated test despite the fact they've already won the Rugby Championship.

"It brings a lot of experience and firepower and I think we're going to need it," Hansen said regarding the return of his heavy artillery. "They're a pretty confident side at the moment, the Boks.

"They've grown another arm and a leg since they knocked us over in Wellington. I thought they played really well against Aussie and they'll be looking forward to fronting up again on Saturday."

All Blacks team to play South Africa at Loftus Versfeld at 4.05am on Sunday:

15. Ben Smith
14. Waisake Naholo
13. Jack Goodhue
12. Sonny Bill Williams
11. Rieko Ioane
10. Beauden Barrett
9. Aaron Smith
8. Kieran Read (c)
7. Sam Cane
6. Shannon Frizell
5. Scott Barrett
4. Sam Whitelock
3. Owen Franks
2. Codie Taylor
1. Karl Tu'inukuafe

Reserves: Nathan Harris, Tim Perry, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo'unga, Ryan Crotty.