All Blacks coach Graham Henry has made two changes to the team that faced the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations opener, with Brendon Leonard and Joe Rokocoko returning to the starting line-up to face the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The team features two changes to the team that beat Australia 22 – 16 in Auckland last weekend, with Leonard getting his third start at scrumhalf in his 11th Test at the expense of Jimmy Cowan who drops out of the matchday squad, while Piri Weepu remains on the bench.
Rokocoko replaces Cory Jane on the right wing for his 56th Test. Rokocoko has scored nine tries against South Africa, one behind Christian Cullen’s South Africa try-scoring record of 10.
Commenting on the changes to the starting XV, Henry said while Cowan and Jane had both played well against Australia it was important that other players in the squad were given an opportunity as well.
“We were really happy with the effort and the progress made against Australia and we are looking for continued improvement in the first Test against South Africa. It will be a massive challenge against our old foes,” Henry said.
The Bloemfontein Test will be hooker Keven Mealamu’s 70th Test, and he becomes the seventh-most capped All Black in history alongside former All Blacks star Andrew Mehrtens.
The All Blacks and South Africa have played each other 75 times since 1921, with 42 wins to the All Blacks, 30 to South Africa and three draws. The All Blacks won the last Test 19 – 0 in last year’s Tri Nations match in Cape Town.
The All Blacks have played twice before in Bloemfontein – in 1976, when Andy Leslie’s All Blacks won 15 – 9, and the 11 – 11 draw in 1960.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Josevata Rokocoko , 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Owen Franks, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Kieran Read, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Cory Jane .
Date: Saturday, July 25
Venue: Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Tim Hayes (Wales)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)