The All Blacks selector’s juggling act ahead of the World Cup has continued with Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams among those who will miss the Rugby Championship Test in South Africa.
The match in Johannesburg next weekend is the first of just three that remain before New Zealand’s initial 41-strong squad is cut to 31 for the defence of the Webb Ellis Trophy in England.
Coach Steve Hansen says the choice of the 31 players to go to South Africa was a balance involving picking the right team, giving some players an opportunity and resting others.
Hansen said both Carter and Williams had good performances in the 39-18 win over Argentina in the championship opener in Christchurch on Friday night and normally would be making the trip.
He agreed it was a difficult decision to leave the pair out of a Test as big as one against the Springboks at Ellis Park.
“At the same time, we have to be brave to find out some answers to some questions, and what better place to find that out,” he said.
“It’s a heck of a pressure situation against one of the best teams in the world, in their back yard and in the high veldt.”
Carter’s omission means uncapped Lima Sopoaga takes one of the five-eighth slots with Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade.
Williams’ absence opens the way for a resumption of the Ma’a Nonu-Conrad Smith midfield partnership.
Among others who will remain home are hooker Hika Elliot and uncapped outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder, both because of minor injuries.
With Elliot not travelling, Codie Taylor, who made his debut off the bench against the Pumas and scored a try, is included.
Winger Waisake Naholo is also out of the squad after breaking a bone in his leg in his debut against Argentina. He is now out of contention for the World Cup team.
Hansen cautioned against reading too much into the make-up of the travelling line-up.
“No one has jumped ahead of anyone at the moment,” he said
“We’re just trying to find what is the best 31.
“We’ve got to get combinations. We’ve got to get versatility as well because you can’t replace players in the World Cup and then use them again.”
Meanwhile, flanker Sam Cane will continue to get a breather after his heavy Super Rugby workload with the Chiefs.
Hansen said Cane could have game time for Bay of Plenty before being brought back into the reckoning for the two Tests against Australia.
All Blacks squad for South Africa:
Forwards – Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Tony Woodcock, James Broadhurst, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Victor Vito;