Match details: All Blacks v South Africa, Sunday 7 August, 3.05am NZT (local time: Saturday 6 August, 5.05pm), Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela
Won: All Blacks 60, South Africa 37, Drawn 4
Last time: All Blacks 29, South Africa 31 (2 October 2021)
Referee: Angus Gardner
FRONT ROW SHUFFLE
There’s change aplenty up front for the All Blacks with Samisoni Taukei’aho named at hooker alongside George Bower and Angus Ta’avao in a new look front row. On the bench, Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot are named for the first time in the 2022 season while Dane Cole gets the nod on the pine ahead of Codie Taylor. The Springboks have named a powerful starting trio of Trevor Nyakane, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe. The inspirational Marx will also be playing his 50th Test match.
WELCOME BACK CALEB
An eye-catching selection for the All Blacks is Caleb Clarke in the number 11 jersey for the first time since 2020. With Olympics aspirations and injury keeping him off the All Blacks team sheet since his then, Clarke will provide genuine firepower out wide and completes a dangerous back three of Will Jordan and Jordie Barrett. Clarke will provide an unknown quantity for the Springboks having never faced the South Africans in a Test match previously.
RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP GLORY
First played for under the guise of the Tri Nations back in 1996, the Rugby Championship is one of the most prestigious and hotly contested titles in world rugby. The All Blacks are the reigning Rugby Championship holders having taken out the title on Australian soil in 2021. South Africa have claimed the title on four occasions (1998, 2004, 2009 and 2019) and will be buoyed by hosting the All Blacks in the opening two Tests of the 2022 tournament. Whoever emerges on top in Mbombela will also claim early favourites status for the 2022 crown.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster said a stark reality of the 101-year All Blacks-Springboks rivalry would be borne out again in the opening Test Mbombela. "If you are not at your best, you lose.” Foster said. “It sets things very simple and clear in your mind at the start, but to have two [Tests] in a row here is something special for this team. We're determined to prove this team's got the character to grow from our last series and the frustrations from that,” Foster said.
OLD RIVALRIES IGNITE
While the All Blacks have not played on South African soil since their nail-biting 32-30 win at Loftus Versfeld in 2018, the Test will also see several classic player rivalries resume. This is nowhere more apparent than at halfback where Aaron Smith faces Faf de Klerk. The two world class halfbacks have had many great battles at Super Rugby and Test level over the years, and de Klerk said their was a mutual respect between the pair. "We've become friends off the field, but once we're on the field, it's back to business," de Klerk said. “He's one of their key players with over 100 Tests which makes him unbelievably successful. There's a lot to learn from him – it's always good to learn from one of the best players in the world."
The All Blacks have won their last four matches on South African soil, with the last two wins coming by a margin of two points or less.
TEAMS (caps in brackets)
1. George Bower (14) 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho (11) 3. Angus Ta’avao (22) 4. Sam Whitelock (134) 5. Scott Barrett (50) 6. Akira Ioane (14) 7. Sam Cane © (80) 8. Ardie Savea (62) 9. Aaron Smith (105) 10. Beauden Barrett (104) 11. Caleb Clarke (5) 12. David Havili (16) 13. Rieko Ioane (50) 14. Will Jordan (15) 15. Jordie Barrett (39)
Reserves: 16. Dane Coles (81) 17. Ethan de Groot (4) 18. Tyrel Lomax (14) 19. Tupou Vaa’i (12) 20. Shannon Frizell (17) 21. Finlay Christie (6) 22. Richie Mo’unga (35) 23. Quinn Tupaea (9)
1. Trevor Nyakane (56) 2. Malcolm Marx (49) 3. Frans Malherbe (48) 4. Eben Etzebeth (100) 5. Lood de Jager (58) 6. Siya Kolisi (65) - captain 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (60) 8. Jasper Wiese (13) 9. Faf de Klerk (38) 10. Handre Pollard (62) 11. Makazole Mapimpi (27) 12. Damian de Allende (60) 13. Lukhanyo Am (28) 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse (1) 15. Damian Willemse (18)
Reserves:16. Bongi Mbonambi (50) 17. Steven Kitshoff (61) 18. Vincent Koch (34) 19. Salmaan Moerat (1) 20. Franco Mostert (53) 21. Kwagga Smith (21) 22. Jaden Hendrikse (4) 23. Willie le Roux (74)