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All Blacks promote Gear, Retallick for Boks battle

Published: 5:40PM Thursday October 04, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

The All Blacks have tweaked their starting line-up for the final Rugby Championship Test against South Africa in Soweto on Sunday morning (NZT).

Hosea Gear comes on to the left wing for Julian Savea, while the locking rotation continues with Brodie Retallick replacing Luke Romano in the second row.

Gear has not featured for the All Blacks since the 22-0 win over the Wallabies at Eden Park in August and should be raring to go, however, his selection comes as a mild surprise.

Savea was at his rampaging best in the 54-15 demolition of Argentina in La Plata last weekend, scoring two tries, and offers a similar game to what Gear will bring.

However Savea, capped six times since making his debut against Ireland in June, is still unproven under the high ball, and would sure to have been peppered by new South African first five-eighth Johan Goosen had he taken his place.

Retallick selection's over Romano is more expected. Romano has started in every Test of the Rugby Championship in his debut international season and was replaced early against Argentina with a bad blood nose.

Another change All Blacks coach Steve Hansen may have considered is bringing Keven Mealamu into the starting pack. Andrew Hore has looked a little off pace lately, while Mealamu made a good impact when he came off the bench in the second half against Argentina.

Liam Messam's selection, meanwhile, confirms he has all but cemented the All Blacks number six jersey. His physicality against Argentina on Sunday was impressive and he will need to lift that part of his game even more against a combative Springbok pack.

Aaron Smith is another All Black who can claim to have cemented an All Blacks starting spot this season.

His crisp passing off the ground was a big reason why New Zealand scored seven tries against the Pumas and his delivery from the coalface has the potential to be even more decisive on the high-veldt.

Elsewhere, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Ma'a Nonu are set to start their sixth consecutive Test of the Rugby Championship. The form backs are joined by captain Richie McCaw, number eight Kieran Read and tighthead prop Owen Franks as the only All Blacks to be named to start in every Test of the quadrangular series.

On the bench, Ben Franks, Adam Thomson and Tamati Ellison replace Charlie Faimunia, Sam Cane and Ben Smith respectively.

"We are in no doubt how big the challenge is for the team this weekend but it is one we are looking forward to as it will be a real test of our resolve and character," Hansen said in a press release.

"South Africa are coming off a big win against Australia and will be playing in front of their home crowd at Soweto so it's going to be a huge Test match."

All Blacks: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Hosea Gear, 10-Daniel Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (c), 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Luke Romano, 19-Adam Thomson, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Aaron Cruden, 22-Tamati Ellison