x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Smit to sit on bench for All Blacks clash

Peter de Villiers has made five changes to his South Africa side for Saturday's Tri Nations clash with New Zealand

John Smit, the veteran South Africa captain, was dropped to bench yesterday in one of five changes to the starting line-up for Saturday's Tri Nations Test against New Zealand, the defending champions.

Smit was replaced at hooker by Bismarck du Plessis, while Victor Matfield, the lock, will captain the team for the 16th time in his 107th Test.

Patrick Lambie, the full-back, Morne Steyn, the fly-half, Willem Alberts, the flanker, and Gurthro Steenkamp, the prop, were also called into the 15 for the Springboks' final game before the start of their World Cup defence next month.

Peter de Villiers, the South Africa coach, said of his reasons for shaking up his starting line-up: "This is our last chance to look at certain combinations before the Rugby World Cup.

"We've had these changes in mind since we started our planning for the international season, depending on the injury situation."

Butch James, Danie Rossouw, Tendai Mtawarira and Smit - who all started last weekend's 14-9 defeat by Australia - were named on the bench by the coach.

Lambie replaces Frans Steyn, who was ruled out against the No 1-ranked All Blacks in Port Elizabeth with a hamstring injury. Smit left the field against the Wallabies with an elbow injury and was also struggling with a cold before the All Blacks Test.

Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and Steenkamp make their first starts of the year.

In changes to the bench, Ashley Johnson, the loose forward, and CJ van der Linde, the prop, were called in after missing out completely against Australia.

Jean Deysel and Gerhard Mostert were dropped from the 22.

South Africa's defeat to the Wallabies in Durban was the under-fire world champions' eighth loss in their last nine Tri Nations matches, and they have lost all three played this year.

* Associated Press