From New Zealand’s domestic NPC to starting a Rugby World Cup semi-final, All Blacks prop Joe Moody has completed a dizzying 10-day ascension.
Moody will wear the No.1 jersey in place of an injured Wyatt Crockett against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
Ben Franks is promoted to the reserves bench as front row cover in the only other change from the side who dismantled France 62-13 in the quarter-finals.
Crockett exited that game in the 29th minute with a groin injury which hasn’t recovered in time to play a 46th Test.
His Canterbury teammate Moody did a sterling job off the bench against France but his 10th Test will be just his fourth start and comfortably the biggest game of his career.
A former Oceania junior wrestling champion, Moody has made giant strides since his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2013, impressing with his raw strength and scrummaging prowess.
He joined the New Zealand squad early last week, as a squad replacement for veteran loosehead Tony Woodcock, who suffered a career-ending hamstring injury.
The uncapped Pauliasi Manu has been summoned from New Zealand and placed on standby while the fitness of Crockett is monitored.
Chiefs and Counties-Manukau loosehead Manu gives New Zealand cover if Crockett doesn’t recover in time for next week’s final or third place play-off.
The other All Blacks medical cloud has cleared, with Nehe Milner-Skudder named to start to on the right wing.
The elusive Milner-Skudder, who has scored seven tries in his first six Tests, was replaced at halftime against France after damaging his shoulder.
Coach Steve Hansen has otherwise stayed true to a team led by veteran skipper Richie McCaw which has been earmarked as their strongest since the tournament began five weeks ago.
Hansen is sticking with no specialist lock reserve, instead retaining flankers Victor Vito and Same Cane on the bench.
He says the All Blacks have put the thumping win over the Tricolores behind them.
“We’ve put a full stop on last weekend’s performance and have been slowly building throughout the week to produce another game we can all be proud of.”
Although the All Blacks and Springboks have met 90 times, only three of those have been at a World Cup – the 1995 final, the 1999 third-place play-off and a 2003 quarter-final.
“These cup finals matches are totally different,” Hansen said.
“They have a live-or-die nature to them and both teams will be desperate to advance.”
All Blacks: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.