All Blacks v Springboks – Championship 2012, Round 4

Both coaches have continued to tinker with their sides ahead of the All Blacks’ clash with South Africa in Dunedin this weekend.

With Dan Carter still out Aaron Cruden gets his chance to make amends for his performance against the Pumas in Wellington, which bucked the trend of good form he had been displaying of late. Piri Weepu will play inside him after break-out halfback Aaron Smith reportedly breached team protocols following the Argentinian game.

Brodie Rettalick heads back to the bench to make way for Sam Whitelock’s return to the second row, while Liam Messam obviously did enough when introduced as an impact player against Los Pumas to cement a starting place at Blindside flanker.

The other major move is the inclusion of utility back Tamati Ellison on the bench at the expense of fellow Highlander Ben Smith.

The South Africans, coming under increasing criticism from their media, have injury issues with their front row, and have given prop-forward Jannie Du Plessis until match-day to prove his fitness.
Coach Heneke Meyer continues to play around with his loose forward trio, an area where the traditionally aggressive Springboks have been outplayed each week to date. Francois Louw moves in to the starting side, with Marcel Coetzee moving to the bench to be used as an impact player.

There has been much talk about whether the South Africans would vary their conservative game this weekend, given how ineffectual it was against the Australians, and considering the fact that the match will be contested on a firm ground under cover of the Forsyth Barr roof.

But the indications are that the visitors will stick to a plan which revolves around fly-half Morne Steyn standing deep in the pocket and kicking for territory. Against an All Blacks team that always has plenty of points in them, and will be looking to rebound from a frustrating display against the under-rated Pumas, the Africans will need a huge penalty count in their favour if a conservative plan and Steyn’s boot are to be good enough to earn them an unlikely victory.

My pick? All Blacks, 31-18

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