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PREVIEW: All Blacks v South Africa first Test

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Andy Burt     15 Sep 2017     Getty Images

Matches played: 93
All Blacks won: 55
South Africa won: 35
Drawn: 3
Last Match: All Blacks 57, South Africa 15 (October 9, 2016)
Largest All Blacks winning margin: 57-15 (2016)

Match details: All Blacks v South Africa, 7.35pm, Saturday 16 September, North Harbour Stadium, Albany

SQUAD NEWS
The All Blacks have made a number of changes to the side that defeated Argentina last week. In the forwards, Kane Hames comes into loosehead prop for his first Test start, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whielock return to the second row and Liam Squire slots into the number six jersey in place of Vaea Fifita. In the backs, Aaron Smith comes in at halfback, Ryan Crotty replaces Anton Lienert-Brown at centre and Rieko Ioane is back on the left wing. South Africa have made three changes from the side that drew with Australia last week with all three changes coming in the pack. Franco Mostert comes in at lock, Jean-Luc du Preez at openside flanker and Ruan Dreyer at tighthead prop.

SPECIAL FEATURE: STEVE HANSEN LOOKS AT THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHALLENGE

SPRINGBOKS RESURGENCE
After a dismal 2016 season which saw just four wins from 12 Tests, South Africa have bounced back strongly this season. After sweeping aside France 3-0 in the June internationals, the Springboks have started the Investec Rugby Championship with twin victories over Argentina and a draw against the Wallabies to remain unbeaten in 2017. Their improvement has been reflected in a rise from seventh to third on the World Rugby rankings.
DEADEYE ELTON
Last week Nicolas Sanzhez punished the All Blacks from the tee to give Argentina a halftime lead. This week the All Blacks encounter another deadly goal-kicker in the form of Elton Jantjies. The Lions pivot has surged to the top of the Rugby Championship point-scoring chart with 49 points from three games. He is also yet to miss a conversion with 10 successful attempts. Jantjies is also a playmaker of the highest order and will need to be tracked closely by his opposite Beauden Barrett and openside flanker Sam Cane otherwise he could cause the All Blacks defence some real problems. 

GREEN BACK THREE
With seasoned players like Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Julian Savea occupying the All Blacks back three positions over recent seasons, the All Blacks will put out one of their most inexperienced wing/fullback combinations in recent memory. Damian McKenzie (4), Nehe Milner-Skudder (9) and Rieko Ioane (6) have played just 19 Tests between them but offer untold attacking potential. Milner-Skudder returned for his first Test since 2015 with a try last week while McKenzie’s blistering pace and evasive line running had the Argentine defence scrambling. Rieko Ioane sat out the Argentina clash but has been in devastating form in 2017 with five tries from five Tests.
FAST FACT
The All Blacks and South Africa are the only two teams who have played multiple games at North Harbour Stadium to have unbeaten records at the venue. The All Blacks have played six Tests at Albany while South Africa played two during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

TEAMS (Test caps in brackets)
All Blacks: 1. Kane Hames (2) 2. Dane Coles (51) 3. Nepo Laulala (6) 4. Brodie Retallick (67) 5. Samuel Whitelock (90) 6. Liam Squire (10) 7. Sam Cane (47) 8. Kieran Read (103) – Captain 9. Aaron Smith (64) 10. Beauden Barrett (56) 11. Rieko Ioane (6) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (39) 13. Ryan Crotty (29) 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder (9) 15. Damian McKenzie (5)
Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor (22) 17. Wyatt Crockett (64) 18. Ofa Tu'ungafasi (7) 19. Scott Barrett (10) 20. Ardie Savea (19) 21. TJ Perenara (36) 22. Lima Sopoaga (10) 23. Anton Lienert-Brown (16)

South Africa: 1. Tendai Mtawarira 2. Malcolm Marx 3. Ruan Dreyer 4. Eben Etzebeth 5. Franco Mostert 6. Siya Kolisi 7. Jean-Luc du Preez 8. Uzair Cassiem 9. Ross Cronje 10. Elton Jantjies 11. Courtnall Skosan 12. Jan Serfontein 13. Jesse Kriel 14. Raymond Rhule 15. Andries Coetzee
Reserves: 16. Bongi Mbonambi 17. Steven Kitshoff 18. Trevor Nyakane 19. Lood de Jager (Vodacom Bulls) 20. Pieter-Steph du Toit 21. Francois Hougaard 22. Handré Pollard 23. Damian de Allende