24 Jul 2015

Big Test for newcomers

11:51 am on 24 July 2015

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen realises he's throwing a couple of new players into one of the hottest cauldrons in world rugby, but it has to happen in a World Cup year.

Highlanders first five Lima Sopoaga and Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst will debut in the Rugby Championship clash with the Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Sunday morning.

Hansen says playing the Boks in South Africa is one of the toughest games ever, but they need to test players ahead of the Cup.

"What better challenge to see young players in, we're mindful of the fact that there's a World Cup at the end of the year and we've got to select the right 31 people to go to that... we've got to have an experienced side on the park to be able to compete but at the same time we have to be brave enough to make some selections that allow us to go forward."

The side also includes Highlanders captain Ben Smith, who will play his first Test of the year on the right wing, with coach Hansen wanting to give Israel Dagg more time at fullback.

Sopoaga comes in for Daniel Carter at first five and Broadhurst takes over from Luke Romano.

The pressure is on Lima Sopoaga to show that he is capable of guiding an All Blacks side from first five-eight.

Lima Sopoaga will make his Test debut this weekend against the Springboks. Photo: Photosport

In other changes, Dane Coles comes in at hooker with Liam Messam at blindside flanker.

In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting halfback position, while the world-record midfield combo of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith is also back.

On the bench, Ben Franks comes in as reserve prop alongside Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor retains the reserve hooker jersey, Sam Whitelock is reserve lock, and Victor Vito will be covering the loose forwards.

TJ Perenara is reserve halfback, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa as the other back reserves.

Debut players Broadhurst and Sopoaga will be surrounded by a hugely experienced All Blacks side, with the starting forward pack boasting exactly 500 Test caps experience, with a further 320 caps in the starting backline and 217 on the bench.

It will be All Blacks captain Richie McCaw's 140th Test this weekend, making him the second most capped player of all time, overtaking George Gregan (139) and one behind Irishman Brian O'Driscoll.

Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst.

Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst Photo: Photosport

All Blacks squad (Test caps in brackets):

1. Tony Woodcock (112), 2. Dane Coles (27), 3. Owen Franks (69), 4. Brodie Retallick (38), 5. James Broadhurst, 6. Liam Messam (41), 7. Richie McCaw - captain (139), 8. Kieran Read (74), 9. Aaron Smith (38), 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Charles Piutau (16), 12. Ma'a Nonu (95), 13. Conrad Smith (85), 14. Ben Smith (38), 15. Israel Dagg (48)

Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor (1), 17. Wyatt Crockett (38), 18. Ben Franks (41), 19. Samuel Whitelock (63), 20. Victor Vito (26), 21. TJ Perenara (12), 22. Beauden Barrett (28), 23. Malakai Fekitoa (8)