Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 19 News List

All Blacks make three changes to take on Springboks

AP , JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

All Blacks coach John Mitchell restored his faith in Carlos Spencer's goalkicking among three changes to the team to play South Africa in the rugby union Tri-Nations at Pretoria on Saturday.

With inside center Daniel Carter making way Tuesday for Aaron Mauger from New Zealand's recent 31-23 over France, flyhalf Spencer will take New Zealand's goalkicks for the first time since his poor show against England in the team's season-opener a month ago.

Spencer converted only three of seven goalkicks in the 15-13 loss to England, and was relieved by Carter, who was successful in wins against Wales and France.

Spencer will oppose Springbok flyhalf Louis Koen, who has struck more than 90 percent of his goal attempts, including a match-winning penalty against Argentina, and 16 points in last Saturday's 26-22 upset of Australia in the opening Tri-Nations match.

Keven Mealamu will start at hooker for the All Blacks, an expected change after former captain Anton Oliver was dropped from the squad. But a surprise was Carl Hoeft's recall at loosehead prop over Dave Hewett, who was also left out of the reserves.

"We have been very happy with the progress of Hoeft. He deserves his chance," Mitchell told the South African Press Association.

Steve Devine has held on to the halfback spot ahead of the vastly experienced Justin Marshall, and lock Ali Williams remains at lock despite Brad Thorn's pressing claims.

Springbok utility back Thinus Delport limped out of training Tuesday with a left hamstring strain, but team officials said it was not a major concern.

The All Blacks face a formidable task at Loftus, where South Africa has won 16 of 22 test matches.

NEW ZEALAND: Malili Muliaina, Doug Howlett, Tana Umaga, Aaron Mauger, Joe Rokocoko; Carlos Spencer, Steve Devine, Jerry Collins, Richard McCaw, Reuben Thorne (captain), Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Greg Somerville, Keven Mealamu, Carl Hoeft. Reserves: Caleb Ralph, Daniel Carter, Justin Marshall, Rodney So'oailo, Brad Thorn, Kees Meeuws, Mark Hammett.

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