WELLINGTON – Experimentation with a view to events two months down the track at the Rugby World Cup is part of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus's selection for Saturday's Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Wellington.
As both countries utilise the truncated Championship to work on their tactical options South Africa have made some key selections for the weekend.
In the injury-enforced absence of Siya Kolisi, the captaincy has been given to No 8 Duane Vermeulen, ahead of previous leaders Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Erasmus said: "It is important that we continue to build on our leadership for this important year, especially while our regular skipper is out of action because of injury rehabilitation.
"Duane is an experienced captain and we have a strong group of leaders in the team."
Erasmus, who masterminded last year's 36-34 win over the All Blacks in Wellington, said he had the highest respect for the All Blacks who were the undisputed No 1 team in the world.
One position Erasmus is looking to develop is at flyhalf where Handre Pollard will start while his usual backup Elton Jantjies has missed out. Recalled utility back Frans Steyn will cover first five-eighths.
"We have to know who will be the next 10. We've got Damian Willemse back in South Africa who is injured. If Handre gets injured, Elton will be the next 10, but this is an opportunity to see things go if we slot Frans in at 10 or 12.
"It's not the best of positions to try that but it is an opportunity.
"We had a nice, honest chat and the whole group knows this is a big game for us but we're also preparing for the World Cup in saying that.
"With all respect to New Zealand, we have to try new things. Elton and Handre will go to the World Cup as the two No 10s but things can happen and there could be injuries," he said.
Steyn's last Test start was against New Zealand was in 2012 when New Zealand beat South Africa 21-11 in Dunedin. He has made five other appearances since then from the bench.
Flanker Kwagga Smith is another who will get the chance to stake a claim for more permanent inclusion in the side, especially in Kolisi's absence.
Erasmus said: "Smith's only played one match for us since I've been with the Boks and it was that weird game against Wales in Washington.
"I haven't always had the chance to coach him into a proper Test match week and we had to split our resources for that Wales game. It was tough to coach him.
"We've had two weeks to coach him now and overall, he's energetic, opportunistic and I think he's a ball player. He's a guy with a big engine on him.
"He's not one of the biggest guys but if you are a player like Sam Cane, he matches them size-wise. But he's got a big heart and a great team man," he said.
African News Agency (ANA)