Cape Town – In a wholesale makeover, the All Blacks are to experiment with Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf for Saturday’s grudge Test against South Africa in Wellington with Beauden Barrett moving to fullback.
Injury-hampered star centre Sonny Bill Williams also returns for the pressure-cooker clash, along with eight heavyweights from the Super Rugby champion Crusaders.
For the All Blacks it is a chance to avenge last year’s loss to the Springboks at the same ground and for both sides bragging rights are on offer before they meet again in their opening pool match at the Rugby World Cup in eight weeks.
Although Hansen rates the Rugby Championship behind the World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup series with Australia, he has made it clear matching the physicality of the Rassie Erasmus’ side is a priority.
Only Ben Smith, who moves to the right wing, lock Brodie Retallick and Barrett remain in the starting line up from the side that beat Argentina 20-16 in the first round of the Rugby Championship last weekend.
“It’s always an exciting occasion when we play the Springboks, as they bring many challenges to the contest,” Hansen said.
“One of those challenge this week will be to not only match the physicality of the Boks, but to impose our own physicality on the game, and execute our game and our skillsets at a higher level.”
Along with putting his best two flyhalves on the park at the same time, Hansen has relegated Aaron Smith to the bench with TJ Perenara linking with Mo’unga in the halves.
Double World Cup winner Williams teams up with Jack Goodhue in the centres with Rieko Ioane on the left wing.
Crusaders squad members provide a wealth of experience in the forwards with Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks, having 184 Test caps in a formidable front row.
Sam Whitelock (108 caps) is reunited with Retallick at lock, captain Kieran Read (117 caps) is at the back of the scrum with Matt Todd and the Highlanders’ Shannon Frizell on the flanks.
“The key for us this week has been to continue building on the very good groundwork we’ve put in over the last couple of weeks,” Hansen said.
“Whilst we were a little rusty last week, we’re looking forward to seeing improvements in all areas of our game this week.”
Kick-off is at 09:35 (SA time).
15 Beauden Barrett; 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane; 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 TJ Perenara; 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Shannon Frizell; 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick; 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Vaea Fifita, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 George Bridge
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel