All Blacks To Rest Stars For Tri Nations Clash
The All Blacks will rest a number of key players in this weekend’s tri nations clash against the Springboks in Wellington.
The Springboks had already committed to taking a less than full strength squad to New Zealand, which has led the All Blacks announcing that they will rest a number of stars this weekend, including Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks and Kevin Mealamu.
New Zealand assistant coach Wayne Smith said that the World Cup favourites were sticking to plans that were laid out before the start of the tri-nations.
“Every player is on an individual plan and some are champing at the bit to get out there and play and some are a bit overcooked. We’re just making sure that we’re looking after people,” Smith said.
“Our experience is that you’re better to put the ones that are champing at the bit out there. We’re about winning test matches and hungry players, the ones that are fresh and ready to go, they’ll be playing.”
Smith said that the New Zealand coaching staff were still undecided on the make-up of their best 15, and this match would give them a chance to have a good look at the players on the periphery.
“We don’t really know what our top 15 is at this point. There’s a lot of competition, a lot of guys playing for spots and that’s a good way to be,” he said.
“We’re trying to get everyone in the squad competitive and I think you saw that at the weekend against Fiji. We’ve got a lot of outside backs who are injured. All the outside backs that played on the weekend were great and that’s put a lot of heat on that that’s what we’re looking for”
Crusaders Lock Sam Whitlock is one player who will get his opportunity this weekend after missing out on selection in the starting line-up for last weekend’s 60-14 demolition of Fiji.
“The energy and excitement is there for everyone,” Whitlock said.
“All the guys here are very competitive, if they weren’t they probably wouldn’t be here. That goes through playing cards in down time or on the training field.
Whitlock said despite the thumping win over Fiji, the All Blacks squad still had a lot of room for improvement.
“It’s fair to say that we were a little bit rusty, especially at the breakdown. So we’ve done a bit of work and no doubt we’ll carry on doing that over the weeks. It’ll be a constant thing we have to work on.”
Hurricanes fullback Cory Jane is also expected to come into the squad for match against South Africa, however replacements for the rested forwards are yet to be finalised.
The Springboks will also go into the match under strength after they decided to leave a number of front line players at home for their away leg of the tri-nations tour.
Former South African prop Ollie Le Roux has labelled the decision to leave some of the South Africa’s best players out of the side, so close to the World Cup as ‘dreadful’.
“De Villiers has again showed that he is not the kind of coach that can get a team to gel,” Le Roux said.
However claims that they are resting players have been denied by the South African camp.
“The plan is to play anyone who is fit. There wasn’t a rotation policy involved with this tour. We are literally picking the last man standing,” said South African assistant coach Gary Gold.
“This is a huge opportunity for a group of guys trying to make their mark as Springboks.
“This jersey is an incredibly important item in our lives. Forget that this is a World Cup year, there are a lot of young players here with long Springbok careers ahead of them. This is the toughest cauldron, and it will do our confidence a lot of good.”