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Steven Luatua earns All Blacks start

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen chose a conventional path, selecting Steven Luatua at blindside flanker to face South Africa on Saturday.

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Luatua replaces the injured Liam Messam (thigh) in what is a like-for-like swap with Hansen choosing not to go down the dual openside route despite Richie McCaw and Sam Cane working well in tandem against Argentina last weekend when Messam limped off.

Against the formidable Springboks lineout, Luatua - a major ball winner for the Blues - provides another option for the All Blacks as well as some size.

At 115 kilograms, the 23-year-old will bring plenty of physicality which will be needed for their Rugby Championship clash with the South Africans in Wellington.

It is a major change in fortunes for the Blues loose forward who was left out of the squad in June because of his poor fitness. He was singled out by Hansen at a training camp in May and put through a punishing session before being axed.

Since, Luatua has had an 18-minute cameo off the bench in the crushing 51-20 win against Australia at Eden Park in August.

The other injury-enforced change to the XV sees Jeremy Thrush start alongside Brodie Retallick in the second row.

Thrush was impressive against the Pumas when he came on for Sam Whitelock (rib cartilage) and deserves his third Test start. Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu makes his comeback from an ankle injury on the bench.

The only other change to the run-on side is the return of Aaron Cruden at first five-eighth following his recovery from a chest muscle injury.

That means Beauden Barrett drops back to the bench where he is joined by Cory Jane, who has replaced Malakai Fekitoa as outside back cover.

"This week we have to find desperation and hunger in our performance because we know that that is something the South Africans will be bringing after their loss to Australia," Hansen said.

"After two wonderful matches last year, I know our guys are really looking forward to this match."

All Blacks' starting XV: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Steven Luatua, Jeremy Thrush, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Joe Moody, Ben Franks, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Cory Jane.

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