Stephen Donald will start at inside centre for New Zealand in Saturday’s Tri-Nations showdown with South Africa in Hamilton.
Injuries to key midfielders Luke McAlister (broken cheekbone) and Conrad Smith (hamstring), plus the absence of Richard Kahui for the rest of the year with a shoulder injury, have forced coach Graham Henry’s hand for a game the All Blacks must win with a bonus point if they are to keep their title hopes alive.
Donald will line up alongside Ma’a Nonu, who has been shifted out one spot to centre, while Daniel Carter, probably the world’s best in his position, remains at fly-half.
Nonu made his All Blacks debut at centre in 2003 but has played there little since with Tana Umaga and Conrad Smith taking the role for Wellington, the Hurricanes and All Blacks.
The rest of the back line remains unchanged from the one that started in the 19-18 win against Australia in Sydney with Joe Rokocoko again on the right wing.
The pack however remains intact meaning for the second Test in a row Kieran Read is preferred ahead of veteran Rodney So’oialo at number eight.
There are three changes on the bench with Adam Thomson coming in to the forwards and Isaia Toeava and Cory Jane in the backs.
Thomson, who replaces Jason Eaton, returns after recovering from a broken hand he suffered in the first Test against France in June, while Toeava has overcome his foot injury.
“Every Test match between New Zealand and South Africa is a massive occasion but this weekend it’s a ’winner takes all’ Test which we are excited about,” coach Graham Henry said.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina; Joe Rokocoko, Ma’a Nonu, Stephen Donald, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read.
Reserves: Aled de Malmanche, John Afoa, Adam Thomson, Rodney So’oialo, Brendon Leonard, Isaia Toeava, Cory Jane.