Smith back in All Blacks shake-up

The Phnom Penh Post - - SPORT -

THE All Blacks have un­der­gone their sec­ond shake-up in as many weeks with seven changes for Satur­day’s Test against South Africa in­clud­ing the re­call of Aaron Smith.

Vaea Fi­fita, one of the stand­out per­form­ers in the scratchy 39-22 win over Ar­gentina last week when he scored a ram­pag­ing try, can­not even make the bench for the fourth-round Rugby Cham­pi­onship en­counter. But fly-half Beau­den Bar­rett, the tar­get of much crit­i­cism fol­low­ing the come-from-be­hind win over Los Pu­mas, re­tains his place.

The ex­pec­ta­tions are that he will be more set­tled with the re­turn of his reg­u­lar half-back part­ner Smith in the num­ber nine jersey.

Coach Steve Hansen, who rates South Africa highly, be­lieves the ab­sence of Smith last week was one of the rea­sons why the back­line, un­der play­maker Bar­rett, strug­gled to cope with Ar­gentina’s rush de­fence.

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween the speed of ball when Aaron’s there so he will come back,” Hansen said.

With the ex­cep­tion of Nehe Mil­nerSkud­der mov­ing to the right wing in place of Ben Smith, it is the same All Blacks run-on side that nar­rowly beat Aus­tralia 35-29 three weeks ago.

Ryan Crotty re­turns at out­side cen­tre for the Test at Auck­land’s North Har­bour Sta­dium, with Rieko Ioane back on the left wing while Mil­ner-Skud­der moves to his more fa­mil­iar right wing slot.

In the for­wards, prop Kane Hames gets his first start in his third Test, in for the in­jured Joe Moody, while Brodie Re­tal­lick and Sam White­lock are re­united in the sec­ond row. The more ex­pe­ri­enced Liam Squire re­gains the num­ber six jersey at the ex­pense of Fi­fita with Sam Cane on the open flank and Ardie Savea drop­ping to the bench.

The All Blacks are try­ing to per­fect a high-paced, high-risk, high-re­ward game but apart from the first 50 min­utes of their open­ing cham­pi­onship match against Aus­tralia the re­sults have been in­con­sis­tent.

Hansen said the fo­cus in the lead-up to play­ing the Spring­boks has been on “how we want to play” in the clash of the two un­beaten sides.

“We need the games we are get­ting at the mo­ment, we’ve had a bit of ad­ver­sity, and that will only make us bet­ter.”

In the first three rounds of the cham­pi­onship, the All Blacks have beaten Aus­tralia twice and Ar­gentina.

The Spring­boks have beaten Ar­gentina twice and drawn against Aus­tralia and Hansen said they would be tough op­po­nents.

“They scrum­mage well, they at­tack well with the ball and their de­fence is get­ting bet­ter. So that’s ba­si­cally the game,” he said.

“We know they’re a tough op­po­nent. They’re al­ways a tough op­po­nent. There’s a long-stand­ing his­tory and ri­valry be­tween our two teams.

“We en­joy play­ing them, they play hard and it’s al­ways com­pet­i­tive. But af­ter­wards they’re al­ways keen to catch up for a chat and a beer.”

The All Blacks and Spring­boks have played each other 93 times, with 55 wins to the All Blacks, 35 to South Africa and three draws.

Wal­la­bies wary of Pu­mas

The Wal­la­bies are look­ing to se­cure a first Rugby Cham­pi­onship win by mak­ing sure they close out the Test against Ar­gentina on Satur­day af­ter some frus­trat­ing close shaves.

Aus­tralia led 20-10 in the sec­ond half against South Africa in Perth last week, only for the Spring­boks to snatch a 2323 draw.

It fol­lowed a heart­break­ing 35-29 de­feat to the All Blacks in Dunedin last month when the Aus­tralians re­lin­quished a 17-point lead as New Zealand snatched the win­ning try with two min­utes left.

Michael Cheika’s team have won only two of their six in­ter­na­tion­als this sea­son and vice cap­tain Will Ge­nia said the Wal­la­bies must find a way to cope with the pres­sure mo­ments and push on to win.

“It’s about just han­dling those mo­ments bet­ter be­cause in the mo­ment that’s when you are a lit­tle bit flus­tered,” the 81 Test-capped scrum-half said.

“We’ve just got to make sure that when we are pre­sented with those tough mo­ments in games, we re­spond how we want with clear minds as op­posed to just be­ing a lit­tle bit rat­tled.”

The Wal­la­bies have made just one change to their start­ing XV with ex­pe­ri­enced lock Rob Sim­mons re­plac­ing Rory Arnold, who has missed out on this week’s match­day squad.

The Pu­mas have made four changes with To­mas Lezana, Martin Lan­dajo, Ramiro Moy­ano and Ma­tias Or­lando named in the start­ing XV.

Lezana will start at No 8 in place of Ben­jamin Ma­cone while Lan­dajo re­places for­mer ACT Brumbies scrum-half To­mas Cubelli.

Joaquin Tu­culet and San­ti­ago Cordero have made way for winger Moy­ano and out­side cen­tre Or­lando, with Emil­iano Bof­felli to start at full­back.


New Zealand’s scrum-half Aaron Smith passes the ball dur­ing the Rugby Cham­pi­onship test match against Aus­tralia in Syd­ney on Au­gust 19.

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