HOSEA Gear had been challenged to perform in the heat of battle in Soweto on Sunday,
Gear is one of five changes All Blacks coach Steven Hansen has made to the side that will meet the Springboks in their final Rugby Championship outing of 2012.
He replaces Julian Savea, who scored twice against Argentina last week, while the other starting line-up movement sees Brodie Retallick coming in for Luke Romano.
Romano’s move to the bench, in part, is to protect three facial gashes he suffered against the Pumas.
“It’s more about Luke,” Hansen told Fairfax NZ.
“He’s got three different sites for stitches on his face. It allows him to stay out of training. We don’t want to lose intensity at training so Brodie gets a start and Luke will come on late in the game.”
On the bench, Tamati Ellison takes Ben Smith’s utility spot, prop Ben Franks gets an opportunity ahead of Charlie Faumuina and Adam Thomson will cover the loose forwards in place of Sam Cane.
It he gets on the pitch it will be Thomson’s first appearance in the tournament, but it is the movement on the left wing which is the major talking point.
Savea impressed in the past three tests, but isn’t even on the bench, apparently a ploy to remove the spotlight from him.
“We are very happy with how Julian is going and it’s not a reflection on him, just the need for a young player to step out of the pressure,” Hansen said.
Savea’s efforts had put pressure on Gear, yet to fire in the black jersey this season.
“His form wasn’t that bad when we changed and let Julian have a chance. We’ve rotated. It’s important for Hosea to step in and step up,” Hansen said.
“He did that last time we did this. He played particularly well against Ireland [Hamilton] – he probably had one of his better tests.
“I’m expecting him to have a big game. He’s itching to get out there.”
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison