CAPE TOWN • Normal service has been restored and the All Blacks will put out their strongest available side in tomorrow's Rugby Championship dead rubber against South Africa.
While Brodie Retallick has remained at home following a family tragedy, five other senior players were recalled after being rested when New Zealand played Argentina last week.
New Zealand already have the championship wrapped up, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said they were taking no chances against their arch-enemy.
Sam Whitelock returns to the second row, Liam Squire and Sam Cane are back as the flankers, backline organiser Ryan Crotty will play at centre with Nehe Milner-Skudder on the right wing. The five were sidelined for last week's match in Buenos Aires to keep them fresh for the Springboks encounter at the end of a fortnight of arduous travel from New Zealand to Argentina and then to South Africa.
Despite Springbok coach Allister Coetzee publicly writing off his side's chances, Hansen believes that behind the scenes they will be seething over their 57-0 humiliation when they played the All Blacks in New Zealand last month.
"We know we'll be playing a proud Springbok side which will be determined to rectify what happened (in Auckland)," he said when naming his side yesterday.
"Our skill execution, our physicality and our ability to play our 'triple threat' game will be critical," he added, referring to the All Blacks' plan to keep the opposition guessing whether they will run, pass or kick.
New Zealand, however, were dealt a huge blow ahead of the Rugby League World Cup, which will start later this month, as a string of high-profile players have defected to Tonga.
Kiwi coach David Kidwell described the decision by eight eligible New Zealanders to instead play for the Pacific island nation as "disappointing", but insisted his 24-man squad was still capable of lifting the trophy.
"There's a great mix of enthusiasm and experience in this side and a real desire to win this World Cup," he said.
North Queensland Cowboys star forward Jason Taumalolo was the biggest name to make the switch.
Under international rules, players eligible to represent more than one country through descent back to grandparents can switch between a Tier One nation (Australia, New Zealand and England) and Tier Two or Three as long as they do so before an international tournament starts.
The reason for the exodus is not yet clear.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS