Beauden Barrett will start at full-back when New Zealand get their World Cup campaign underway against South Africa on Saturday. It will only be the sixth time that Barrett has started at 15 for his country, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen preferring to go with Crusaders’ Richie Mo’unga at fly-half.
There is an inexperienced look to the reigning champions’ back three, as George Bridge and Sevu Reece having been named on the wings despite having only won eight caps between them. Hansen admits any of his squad would have been capable of being named in the team for Saturday’s match in Yokohama, but he is happy with his choice.
“Any combination of players in our squad could have justified their selection,” Hansen confirmed. “But in the end we believe the 23 we have selected is the right group for this opposition.” South Africa claimed Rugby Championship glory ahead of New Zealand during the summer, although nothing could separate the two teams when they met in that competition, as the match in Wellington ended 16-16 all.
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus is expecting another game of fine margins on Saturday and he is full of respect for the All Blacks “You couldn’t say there is a favourite,” Erasmus said. “I think we have a healthy respect for each other’s capabilities but it will come down to a small moment to decide a big game in the end.”