Steve Hansen has the luxury of replacing injured prop Wyatt Crockett with an in-form Joe Moody for the All Blacks’ semifinal against South Africa at Twickenham on Sunday morning…reports NZ Herald
Moody put in a stunning performance when replacing Crockett after only 28 minutes of the 62-13 quarter-final thrashing of France at the Millennium Stadium. Crockett, who had left the field with a groin injury, always looked a doubtful starter to play the Boks.
Moody, meanwhile, did his core set piece roles well but it was his running and handling deep into the second half which really caught the eye, efforts which belied the long-haul travel from New Zealand he had undertaken earlier in the week when replacing Tony Woodcock.
Moody faces the biggest challenge of his career against a front row of Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, but he and coach Hansen will be confident that he will again conduct himself well in his 10th test.
Right wing Nehe Milner-Skudder has been passed fit after suffering a knock to a shoulder which forced him from the field at halftime in that match and will mark speedster Bryan Habana.
The All Blacks have had an extra edge to them this week at their base in Weybridge, south west London. Rather than being excited about their last performance they appear to have taken on a ruthless air. There is a sense now that they want to finish the job they started in earnest last weekend.
Hansen said: “We’ve had a great preparation so far this week. We’ve put a full stop on last weekend’s performance and have been slowly building throughout the week to produce another game we can all be proud of.
“Though we’ve met South Africa many times over the years, we’ve only played three times at the Rugby World Cup [the 1995 final, the 1999 bronze match and the 2003 quarter-final in Australia] and these cup finals matches are totally different. They have a live or die nature to them and both teams will be desperate to advance.
“As a group we’re really looking forward to this challenge. It will require a massive amount of intensity and composure and accurate skill execution. This team has high expectations of itself and enjoys the big occasions.
“We’re all very much looking forward to Saturday. It’s the fun part of the week where we get to express our skills, physicality and mental strength; all things we’ve been working really hard on this week.”
Hansen also acknowledged the support the All Blacks have received throughout the World Cup.
“On behalf of the team, we’d like to take the opportunity to thank all our families, fans and supporters, both here in the UK, at home and around the world. Their support has not gone unnoticed by the team. We’re very grateful to be able to represent them and our country and we’ll be endeavouring to once again make them all proud.”
Six playeres will extend their records as the most capped All Blacks in their position this weekend: Richie McCaw (openside flanker), Keven Mealamu (hooker), Kieran Read (No8), Daniel Carter (first-five), Ma’a Nonu (second-five) and Conrad Smith (centre).
All Blacks team to play South Africa at Twickenham on Sunday:
15. Ben Smith
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder
13. Conrad Smith
12. Ma’a Nonu
11. Julian Savea
10. Daniel Carter
9. Aaron Smith
8. Kieran Read
7. Richie McCaw (c)
6. Jerome Kaino
5. Sam Whitelock
4. Brodie Retallick
3. Owen Franks
2. Dane Coles
1. Joe Moody
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams.