This time, the All Blacks mean business. The hurt they experienced after the 36-34 loss to the Springboks in Wellington is a dark space that they don’t want to be in again.
The team that Steve Hansen has picked for Saturday’s confrontation at Loftus Versfeld shows that he wants to run the Boks off their feet.
Ben Smith is at fullback instead of Jordie Barrett, with Waisake Naholo at right wing.
Shannon Frizell has been rewarded for a couple of outstanding performances with the blindside flank position, with Liam Squire injured, and captain Kieran Read was even given a week off to miss the Argentina Test and fly straight to South Africa.
But the most intriguing pick is Jack Goodhue at outside centre. Hansen usually opts for experience, and it has brought him an 88.9% win ratio – 80 victories in 90 Tests, with seven defeats and three draws. Remarkable!
This time, though, the Kiwi coach has gone for the youngster in Goodhue instead of Ryan Crotty to partner Sonny Bill Williams at Loftus.
Crotty and Goodhue are teammates at the Crusaders, with the former at No 12 and the latter at No 13.
So Goodhue’s selection this week shows that Hansen has finally seen enough, and I don’t blame him at all.
In fact, Goodhue is unlucky to have waited to be installed as the virtual first-choice outside centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown also getting game time this season.
The 23-year-old is a dynamic runner with ball-in-hand – almost always finding the outside gap.
And what makes him such a threat is that he is able to create space for his wings with his clever offloads in tight spaces and long passes out wide.
Goodhue is an absolute monster tackler: he just loves the physical battle. He puts in the big hits, reads the play well to be an extra hand on cover defence, and looks to rip the ball out of the ball-carrier’s hands.
And he’s playing alongside the offload king Williams…
Not only that, he will want to prove a point to Hansen for dropping him to the bench for the Wellington Test against the Boks, with Crotty and Lienert-Brown in midfield.
And it was Lienert-Brown who threw the intercept pass for Cheslin Kolbe to score.
“He plays really mature, he’s a traditional centre I think in that he’s got the ability to put other people in space,” Hansen was quoted as saying by the New Zealand media on Thursday.
“He is a good reader on defence and has got a bit of gas as well.”
You called it, Fitz!@SFitzpatrick92 named Jack Goodhue as his 'One To Watch' earlier this week, and the @crusadersrugby centre had a brilliant #TheRugbyChampionship debut
Here's his 1st Test try - in a #BledisloeCup match, no less. #AUSvNZL
✍️ https://t.co/6zJ2C6LGmz pic.twitter.com/B3C7cCwX7g
Springbok No 13 Jesse Kriel is under pressure to produce a big performance after an up-and-down season up to now, but gets his chance due to Lukhanyo Am’s injury.
Kriel will be on his home ground on Saturday, but he will have his hands full in trying to contain Goodhue on Saturday.
All Black Team
15 Ben Smith 14 Waisake Naholo 13 Jack Goodhue 12 Sonny Bill Williams 11 Rieko Ioane 10 Beauden Barrett 9 Aaron Smith 8 Kieran Read (captain) 7 Sam Cane 6 Shannon Frizell 5 Scott Barrett 4 Sam Whitelock 3 Owen Franks 2 Codie Taylor 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Bench: 16 Nathan Harris 17 Tim Perry 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi 19 Patrick Tuipulotu 20 Ardie Savea 21 TJ Perenara 22 Richie Mo’unga 23 Ryan Crotty.