New Zealand coach Ian Foster has revealed he believes a few subtle changes to his squad for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final will be enough to keep up with South Africa’s ‘bomb squad’.
The Springboks have relied on the bench’s forward strength for the crucial final in Paris, including seven substitutes in their 23rd squad.
The seven-to-one bench split was a move first used in South Africa’s strong warm-up win over New Zealand at Twickenham in August, with the substitutes coming together and immediately receiving a scrum penalty.
But instead of matching their opponents and adding additional forwards to their eight, the All Blacks have stuck to a traditional five/three combination.
However, coach Foster has made a few personnel changes to these five reserve strikers, with experienced lock Sam Whitelock dropped to the bench and tight end Nepo Laulala coming on at the expense of Fletcher Newell.
And Foster believes his team is well-equipped to mitigate any potential impact on the bench.
“It’s certainly a reaction (to the Springboks bench),” Foster confirmed of his changes. “Not so much a reaction to the power, but more to the techniques we are likely to have to deal with.
“Nepo is a very strong scrummager and very experienced. He trained so well and was probably disappointed not to play the last two games. It’s a great occasion for him.
“He’s alongside Samisoni (Taukei’aho), with the likes of Sam Whitelock on the bench, we really believe in that and have a lot of confidence in this group.”
The final looks set to provide a fascinating clash of styles, with Handre Pollard’s half-time selection ahead of Manie Libbok another indicator that South Africa prefer a closer game.
That contrasts with the All Blacks’ ability to keep the ball alive and play wide, ambitious rugby.
“That’s what I love about the game,” Foster said. “People play in different ways and try different things. (South Africa) have imposed their will, which they believe suits their strength.
“The (seven/one split) doesn’t really change what we do. It has no impact on our game and the way we want to play it. Our strategy suits us, your strategy suits you. That makes it interesting on Saturday night.”
The New Zealand team will face South Africa at the Stade de France (Saturday October 28, kick-off 8:00 p.m. BST)
From XV: 15. Beauden Barrett, 14. Will Jordan, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. Jordie Barrett, 11. Mark Tele’a, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Ethan de Groot, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Sam Cane (captain), 8. Ardie Savea
Substitute: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17. Tamaiti Williams, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Samuel Whitelock, 20. Dalton Papali’i, 21. Finlay Christie, 22. Damian McKenzie, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown