By Alan Dymock
AS INEVITABLE as the front of the newspapers showing flaxen-haired teenage girls jumping for joy on school-results day, the big guns have made almost no changes for Round 2 of the Rugby Championship.
OK, so New Zealand and Australia have made one change to the starting line-up each, pressed by injuries, but South Africa have retained the same starting side that mauled the Pumas in Soweto, 73-13, for the trip to Mendoza.
Toulouse scrum-half Jano Vermaak does come onto the bench, replacing Japan-based pass-flinger Fourie du Preez, and Bismarck du Plessis stays on the pine while Adriaan Strauss retains the starting hooker spot. Were du Plessis to come into the fray he will earn his 50th cap.
New Zealand, however, have made a change at stand-off due to injuries to Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden. Uncapped Crusader Tom Taylor has been selected to run opposite Matt Toomua in Wellington.
Likewise, Australia have only made the one swap, with Scott Fardy of the Brumbies coming in to play in the stead of blindside Hugh McMeniman, who drops out with a season-closing shoulder injury.
Understandably, the All Blacks were unwilling to tinker with a winning side, with Hansen showing faith in one uncapped player because the rest of the squad have so much experience.
For the Wallabies, though, it is a case of trusting what little experience their new players have garnered, without making wholesale changes. On this head coach Ewen McKenzie said: “You can’t fudge experience and I know this group learned a great deal from last week and will be much better for the experience on Saturday night.
“We made a decision to reward players that were in form, and who we believed were capable of executing what we are trying to achieve as a group. That doesn’t change overnight or following one losing result.”
Argentina, on the other hand, left it as late as possible to assess injuries before they named their team to play South Africa at home, but they have reversed the trend by making five changes, most notably with Leicester’s Marcos Ayerza coming in at loose-head and Juan Imhoff dropping out of the starting team.
All Blacks: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Steven Luatua; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Subs: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau.
Wallabies: Jesse Mogg; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, James O’Connor; Matt Toomua, Will Genia; Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy; James Horwill (c), Rob Simmons; Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.
Subs: Saia Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Liam Gill, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani.
Los Pumas: Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Felipe Contepomi (c), Horacio Agulla; Nicolás Sánchez, Martín Landajo; Marcos Ayerza, Eusebio Guiñazú, Juan Figallo, Julio Farías Cabello, Mariano Galarza, Pablo Matera, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Leonardo Senatore.
Subs: Agustín Creevy, Nahuel Lobo, Tomas Lavaninni, Benjamin Macome, Tomás Cubelli, Santiago Fernández, Juan Imhoff.
Springboks: Willie le Roux; Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw; Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Jano Vermaak, Patrick Lambie, Jan Serfontein.