(SATSports) – The return of Anton Lienert-Brown in the backs and Luke Jacobson in the forwards has slightly reshaped the All Blacks team which will play the Springboks in the final match of the Rugby Championship on Queensland’s Gold Coast on Saturday.
Lienert-Brown missed last weekend’s first match against South Africa with a hamstring strain and Jacobson was a last-minute withdrawal with a stomach bug. New Zealand won the match 19-17 to clinch the Championship title.
Lienert-Brown will take his place at center on Saturday, forcing Rieko Ioane to move from that spot to the left wing. Jacobson returns at No. 8, meaning captain Ardie Savea will play on the openside flank and Akira Ioane on the blindside. The tight five is unchanged.
Head coach Ian Foster has made two key personnel changes in the backline, naming Sevu Reece on the right wing in place of Will Jordan — the All Blacks’ only try-scorer last weekend — and Brad Weber ahead of T.J. Perenara at scrum-half.
Perenara drops to the bench along with Ethan Blackadder who played in Jacobson’s place last weekend.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga returns to the match-day 23 on the bench after recently rejoining the team after completing isolation. Mo’unga was a late departure from New Zealand because his wife was expecting a baby and has missed New Zealand’s previous Championship matches.
Beauden Barrett will start at flyhalf again on Saturday.
Some of Foster’s changes are clearly to address problems evident in New Zealand’s performance last week. Though they expected a high-ball barrage from the Springboks, they didn’t cope as well with that challenge as they should.
Winger George Bridge, who dropped the kick that led to South Africa’s only try, is gone from the match 23.
Foster has opted for Weber, who offers swifter delivery from scrumhalf and Jacobson, who provides an extra physical presence in the loose. Reece is adept at fielding high balls and quickly turning defense into attack.
“We learned some lessons last week,” Foster said. “We didn’t look after the ball as well as we could have and some of our work at the ruck wasn’t as good as we wanted. We have to lift our performance in that area and the team is keen to get that right this weekend.”
New Zealand’s win last weekend in its 100th test against South Africa decided this year’s Championship. But Foster says they are still keen to finish this section of their season with a strong performance.
“The energy levels are high in the team,” he said. “It’s our fifth test in a row and we’re highly motivated ahead of another big test against South Africa and the last test of the Championship.”
Earlier this week, Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber opted for consistency in making only two injury-enforced changes to his match-day 23.
Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe and replacement loose forward Marco van Staden are out with injuries. Ox Nché is in for Malherbe, although Nché will start on the loosehead side. Trevor Nyakane switches to tighthead and Jasper Wiese was recalled to replace Van Staden on the bench.
Wing Cheslin Kolbe was in line to make his return from a leg injury that ruled him out of South Africa’s two losses against Australia and the defeat to New Zealand last weekend.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen, Kwagga Smith, Siya Kolisi (captain), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nché. Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Brad Weber; Luke Jacobson, Ardie Savea (captain), Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retalick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ethan Blackadder, T.J. Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Damian McKenzie.