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Smith returns for All Blacks against Springboks

Aaron Smith of the All Blacks during a New Zealand All Blacks training session at Alexandra Park

New Zealand Rugby head coach Steve Hansen and selectors have named their team to play South Africa’s Springboks at QBE Stadium, Auckland, on Saturday with Aaron Smith returning to the starting side.

In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the 23 for his 65th Test with TJ Perenara on the bench, Ryan Crotty is back at centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown in the reserves, and Rieko Ioane is back on the left win

In the forwards, prop Kane Hames gets his first start in his third Test, in for the injured Joe Moody, while Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are reunited in the second row.

Despite impressing last week against Argentina Vaea Fifita misses out and Liam Squire has been named at six, with Sam Cane back at seven. Ardie Savea is loose forward cover.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Our big focus this week has been about continual improvement, growing ourselves as a team, growing our game and how we want to play it, and how we want to play against different opposition. Sunday to Friday gives us the opportunity to look at ourselves individually and collectively and get better as a team. We need the games we are getting at the moment, we’ve had a bit of adversity, and that will only make us better.”

Hansen said South Africa would be a dangerous beast this weekend.

“They scrummage well, they attack well with the ball and their defence is getting better. So that’s basically the game. We know they’re a tough opponent – they’re always a tough opponent.”

“There’s a long-standing history and rivalry between our two teams. We enjoy playing them, they play hard and it’s always competitive. But afterwards they’re always keen to catch up for a chat and a beer.”

New Zealand

1. Kane Hames, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Nepo Laulala , 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (c), 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Rieko Ioane , 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Ryan Crotty, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudde, 15. Damian McKenzie

Replacements : 16. Codie Taylor, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi , 19. Scott Barrett , 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara , 22. Lima Sopoaga , 23. Anton Lienert-Brown