All-Blacks ready for showdown with new-look Springboks

GRAHAM HENRY expects his New Zealand side to face a much-changed South Africa one when the two countries meet in the Tri-Nations on Saturday.

The All Blacks coach yesterday made two changes to the starting XV that beat Australia in their last game two weeks ago, with Jimmy Cowan and Ben Franks drafted in.

The visitors need just a point from the historic first-ever match at FNB Stadium — better known as Soccer City, the venue for the 2010 soccer World Cup final — to seal the title.

Cowan takes the place of Piri Weepu in the number nine jersey with the scrum-half dropping to the bench, while Franks comes in for his brother Owen, who drops out of the 22.

New Zealand comfortably beat the world champions in their two other meetings in the competition thus far, but Henry said: “They will be hugely motivated to turn around those results and we are expecting a hugely physical encounter.

“Playing the Springboks in Soweto in front of 90,000 plus fans — it doesn’t get much bigger than this.”

Fly-half Daniel Carter is in line to become the highest All Blacks points scorer against South Africa — needing just two more points to surpass the 209-mark set by Andrew Mehrtens.

Winger Joe Rokocoko — another player on the brink of a milestone against the Springboks with his nine tries just one short of former Munster star Christian Cullen — also expects a difficult encounter, but warns the New Zealanders could still lift their game.

“Playing in Johannesburg, in Soweto as well, which is the heart of the nation, will drive them a bit more. So we are expecting a much better performance from them. I expect there will be a lot of sore bodies by Saturday night,” he said.

Meanwhile Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has challenged Francois Hougaard to make his mark on the international stage after handing the scrum-half a place in his starting XV.

The introduction of the 22-year-old in the number nine jersey is one of seven personnel changes made to the team following their last run-out in the competition, which ended in a 30-13 loss to Australia.

Apart from the twice-capped Hougaard coming in for Ruan Pienaar, there is also a first Test start for lock Flip van der Merwe, who has three previous Test appearances, in place of Danie Rossouw.

Gio Aplon is a surprise inclusion at full-back, moving from his more customary wing position into the number 15 jersey in place of Zane Kirchner.

JP Pietersen instead comes in alongside a new midfield combination of Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh, who replace Wynand Olivier and Jaque Fourie respectively, while front rower BJ Botha and flanker Ryan Kankowski are ousted by Jannie du Plessis and Juan Smith.

Speaking about Hougaard, a player that has played most of the season on the wing for the Bulls, De Villiers said: “He is a player you can take to war. He has a strong head and a good rugby brain. I’m excited to see him trying to cement his place in the starting team.”

Tri-Nations on Saturday

NEW ZEALAND (v South Africa) : M Muliaina (Waikato); C Jane (Wellington), C Smith (Wellington), M Nonu (Wellington), J Rokocoko (Auckland); D Carter (Canterbury), J Cowan (Southland); T Woodcock (North Harbour), K Mealamu (Auckland), B Franks (Tasman), B Thorn (Canterbury), T Donnelly (Otago), J Kaino (Auckland), R McCaw (Canterbury), K Read (Canterbury).

South Africa: G Aplon (Stormers); JP Pietersen (Sharks), J de Jongh (Stormers), J de Villiers (Stormers), B Habana (Stormers); M Steyn (Bulls), Francois Hougaard (Bulls); G Steenkamp (Bulls), J Smit (Sharks), J du Plessis (Sharks), F van der Merwe (Bulls), V Matfield (Bulls), S Burger (Stormers), J Smith (Cheetahs), P Spies (Bulls).

More in this section

CourtsRugbyPlace: FNB StadiumPlace: Soccer CityPlace: SowetoPlace: JohannesburgPlace: New ZealandPerson: Graham HenryPerson: Jimmy CowanPerson: Ben FranksPerson: CowanPerson: Piri WeepuPerson: FranksPerson: OwenPerson: HenryPerson: Daniel CarterPerson: Andrew MehrtensPerson: Joe RokocokoPerson: Christian CullenPerson: New ZealandersPerson: Peter de VilliersPerson: Francois HougaardPerson: HougaardPerson: Ruan PienaarPerson: Flip van der MerwePerson: Danie RossouwPerson: Gio AplonPerson: Zane KirchnerPerson: JP PietersenPerson: Jean De VilliersPerson: Juan De JonghPerson: Wynand OlivierPerson: Jaque FouriePerson: BJ BothaPerson: Ryan KankowskiPerson: Jannie Du PlessisPerson: Juan SmithPerson: de VilliersPerson: M MuliainaPerson: C JanePerson: C SmithPerson: M NonuPerson: J RokocokoPerson: D CarterPerson: J CowanPerson: T WoodcockPerson: K MealamuPerson: B FranksPerson: B ThornPerson: T DonnellyPerson: J KainoPerson: R McCawPerson: K ReadPerson: G AplonPerson: J de JonghPerson: J de VilliersPerson: B HabanaPerson: M SteynPerson: G SteenkampPerson: J SmitPerson: J Du PlessisPerson: F van der MerwePerson: V MatfieldPerson: S BurgerPerson: J SmithPerson: P SpiesEvent: Tri-NationsEvent: 2010 soccer World Cup finalOrganisation: All-BlacksOrganisation: SpringboksOrganisation: New ZealandOrganisation: All BlacksOrganisation: AustraliaOrganisation: South AfricaOrganisation: BullsOrganisation: WaikatoOrganisation: WellingtonOrganisation: AucklandOrganisation: CanterburyOrganisation: SouthlandOrganisation: North HarbourOrganisation: TasmanOrganisation: OtagoOrganisation: StormersOrganisation: SharksOrganisation: Cheetahs

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