Under-fire New Zealand coach Ian Foster has made nine changes to the matchday 23 beaten by Ireland last month for a Rugby Championship opener against South Africa in Mbombela on Saturday.
Four of the alterations are in the starting line-up with the other five on the bench as the tourists seek to end a dismal run of four losses in five matches, including two at home to Ireland during July.
Into the team come winger Caleb Clarke, hooker Samson Taukei’aho, tighthead prop Angus Ta’avao and lock Scott Barrett in place of Sevu Reece, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala and Brodie Retallick.
Changes among the replacements see backs Finlay Christie and Quinn Tupaea and forwards Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax and Shannon Frizell promoted.
They replace backs Folau Fakatava and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and forwards Karl Tu’inukuafe, injured Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Dalton Papalii.
“What a great way to start the 2022 Rugby Championship,” said Foster. “It is always an exciting tournament to be part of.
“The draw means we have a massive challenge of two games here in South Africa. We have settled in well in Mbombela and are preparing for what is always an intense game against our old foe.
“Many of our squad are here in South Africa for the first time. This gives us another opportunity to add new experiences and grow our game.”
The New Zealand slump began last November when they were beaten by Ireland and France on an end-of-season tour.
‘Team not very good’
Then, after kicking off a three-match tour by Ireland with a convincing victory, they were beaten twice by the tourists within eight days to lose a home series for the first time in 27 years.
The media reflected the anger of a rugby-loving nation with senior columnist Hamish Bidwell among those who did not spare the men in black.
“For all that is wrong with the running of New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks, the fact remains that the team is not very good.
“These blokes, with their flash haircuts and sabbaticals and tattoos and massive wages, simply have not delivered. Not this year, not last year, and not the two seasons before that either.
“They have lost lineouts, missed tackles, dropped passes and kicked away good ball too often to be regarded as an elite team.
“If they spent as much time on skill execution or studying the opposition as they do writing messages on their wrist bands or practising fancy handshakes after try celebrations, maybe they would win a game now and then.
“The winning has stopped and the only people who appear not to be suffering any consequences are the players. When is it actually going to be their fault?”
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (capt), Akira Ioane; Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock; Angus Ta’avao, Samson Taukei’aho, George Bower. Bench: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo’unga, Quinn Tupaea