WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Handre Pollard has been restored as South Africa's starting flyhalf with coach Rassie Erasmus selecting his "strongest available side" to face New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.
Since taking over as South Africa coach this year, Erasmus has a 50 percent win record from six Tests and he did not rate highly the Springboks' chances of stopping the All Blacks.
It reflects South Africa's poor run of form in recent years, with only 14 wins from 32 Tests since the 2015 World Cup. Erasmus said his focus now is on trying to rebuild the Springboks, the 1995 and 2007 world champions, to their former glory.
"We are trying to fix South African rugby long term. We don't want to have a crash course and be in survival mode and just pick a bunch of guys and just win the next Test match," he said.
"It's going to be an uphill battle against (a New Zealand side) that's number one in the world and they dictate almost every facet of the game. But this team we've selected is pretty much the closest to our strongest available team... I really think after this game we will know where we stand with South African rugby currently."
Malcolm Marx and Lukhanyo Am are also back in the run-on side with Erasmus making three changes and one positional switch for the Springboks' last away match in the Rugby Championship.
Pollard replaces Elton Jantjies who drops to the bench, Jesse Kriel moves to the right wing for the injured Makazole Mapimpi, and Am takes Kriel's position at outside centre, partnering Damian de Allende in a new-look midfield combination.
UPDATE: All Blacks midfielder @SonnyBWilliams has been withdrawn from this weekend’s Freedom Cup Test against South Africa as he has been unwell this week. He has been replaced on the bench by Jack Goodhue #NZLvRSA #InvestecRugbyChampionship pic.twitter.com/tHAEzmZ9df— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 12, 2018
The only change to the pack following last week's loss to Australia sees Marx rotating with Bongi Mbonambi in the hooker's jersey while on the bench Ross Cronje swaps places with Embrose Papier as the backup scrumhalf. Erasmus said his preference for Pollard to start against the All Blacks was also influenced by his preparations for next year's World Cup.
"We try to mix and match to see what we can take to the World Cup, who can handle the pressure in different situations," he said. "Elton is a guy with wonderful vision, he can dictate the game very well, but I think Handre brings that physicality, that size, that direct play that we need against the All Blacks."
Springboks team: Willie le Roux; Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt); Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Ross Cronje, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe.AFP