NZPA - 13/08/2008
While the All Blacks opted for the status quo, the Springboks today made five changes to their starting 15 for a Test that New Zealand coach Graham Henry describes as pivotal to this year's Philips Tri Nations title.
Among the quintet coming into South Africa's run-on side is their most capped player, fullback Percy Montgomery, who came off the bench in the 63-9 win over Argentina in Johannesburg last weekend, a match to celebrate former president Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday.
For Montgomery, 34, his recall at the expense of Conrad Jantjes, who drops to the reserves, means he will become the first Springbok to amass 100 caps and he will achieve the feat on his home ground. "Against New Zealand is going to make it more special," Montgomery said.
At halfback, Fourie du Preez will have his first start in the Springbok No 9 jersey since South Africa's World Cup triumph last year. His inclusion means Ricky Januarie, whose piece of individual magic carried the Springboks to a 30-28 victory the All Blacks in Dunedin last month, drops to the bench.
Winger Bryan Habana and flanker Schalk Burger, who were rested against the Pumas as a precaution, and lock Andries Bekker, replacing the injured Bakkies Botha, are the other additions. Coach Peter de Villiers said the part Montgomery played against the All Blacks at Carisbrook had been a key to the victory there, while Januarie's workload meant he needed a breather.
"You look at how many games how many games he has played and you can see the legs getting heavier and heavier," he said. "I think it is the right time now to make that change."
All Black coach Graham Henry said none of the Springbok changes was a surprise to him. Like assistant Wayne Smith, the backs coach, Henry rated du Preez as the best halfback in the world. He said the fact that Jantjes "got smashed around against Argentina" might have something to do with Montgomery's selection, but so too could the 100th cap. "There might be an emotional button there as well," he said. "He's been a great servant to South African rugby and he will probably be very motivational for the other 21 players."
The All Blacks, meanwhile, have retained the same 15 that started in the comprehensive 39-10 victory over Australia in Auckland 1-1/2 weeks ago. Henry said the main area of discussion was about the bench, where one change was made with the addition of utility back Isaia Toeava in place of Anthony Tuitavake. He said Toeava, a late call-up last week to the tour party to replace injured fullback Leon MacDonald, was playing fullback for Auckland in the Air New Zealand Cup and was also able to cover wing, centre and second five-eighth.
Henry acknowledged that repeating the level of performance the All Blacks produced against the Wallabies at Eden park would be a big challenge. Two defeats in a row and playing at home had been strong motivators to do well that night.
"There was huge pressure to perform in that game," he said. "In saying that, this is a pivotal game in the Tri Nations. South Africa is a proud rugby nation and a proud rugby team, and we're out here to do our best."