All Blacks make four changes

by staff

Halfback Piri Weepu will make his first Test start of the year as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen unveiled four changes to the team to face South Africa on Saturday.

The three other switches are in the starting forward pack for The Castrol EDGE Rugby Championship Test in Dunedin.

Weepu is promoted from the reserve bench from the side who beat Argentina 21-5 in Wellington, along with blindside flanker Liam Messam, second-rower Sam Whitelock and hooker Andrew Hore.

Used as a reserve in all six of New Zealand's Tests this year, 62-cap veteran Weepu gets his chance to wear the No.9 jersey ahead of youngster Aaron Smith, who had an uncomfortable night against the Pumas.

Smith drops to the reserves this week, along with flanker Victor Vito, second-rower Brodie Retallick and veteran hooker Keven Mealamu.

Hore started all three Tests against Ireland in June but played second fiddle to Mealamu through the three Tri-Nations Tests.

The other two forward swaps are a continuation of Hansen's rotation policy at both blindside flanker and lock.

Another change on the reserves bench sees Tamati Ellison introduced as outside back cover in place of Highlanders teammate Ben Smith.

Elsewhere, the retention of Aaron Cruden at five-eighth had already been confirmed as Hansen nurses Dan Carter through recovery from a calf injury.

The All Blacks are clear leaders at the halfway stage of the Rugby Championship, having preceded their Pumas win with twin defeats of the Wallabies.

South Africa are second, having lodged a win and a draw against Argentina before losing 26-19 to Australia in Perth last Saturday.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Tamati Ellison, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Victor Vito, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu.