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Sopoaga to make All Black debut against Boks

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New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has named Lima Sopoaga and James Broadhurst to make their debut against Soth Africa’s Springboks in Johannesburg at Ellis Park on Saturday.

All Black star Dan Carter was left behind in New Zealand for this Test and Hansen has chosen to blood new talent ahead of the World Cup.

With coach Steve Hansen eager to build his squad’s depth, the pair are among seven changes to the starting line-up that beat Argentina 39-18 in their Rugby Championship opener last week.

In the forwards, Dane Coles replaces Keven Mealamu as hooker, with Liam Messam taking Jerome Kaino’s spot at blindside flanker and Broadhurst edging out Luke Romano.

In the backs, Conrad Smith replaces centre Sonny Bill Williams, Aaron Smith comes in at half-back for TJ Perenara and Ben Smith replaces the injured Waiseke Naholo on the right wing.

With Dan Carter being rested, the biggest selection debate for the Test was who would don the number 10 jersey, with Sopoaga, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade all in contention.

Sopoaga, who helped steer the Highlanders to a Super Rugby tite this year, said he was thrilled to be making his debut in the cauldron of Ellis Park.

“They call it a Test for a reason, to test whether you’re good enough, I guess we’ll find out on Saturday night whether I am or not,” he told reporters.

Hansen said the 24-year-old needed to replicate the skills he had shown for the Highlanders at Test level.

“First and foremost, he’s got to be able to drive the team around the park,” he said.

“He’s got a good kicking game, a good running game and it’s these things we’re looking at.”

Broadhurst had a breakthrough year with the Hurricanes this season, helping them to the Super Rugby final.

Hansen said the 26-year-old, who stands 2.01 metres (six foot six inches) tall, would need to muscle up against the Springboks.

“It’s a step-up physically. He’s probably not going to get too many more bigger challenges from a physical point of view,” he said.

“He’s got to be right in the heart of it. The tight five is where Test matches are won.”

New Zealand

Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Charles Piutau; Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam; James Broadhurst, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.

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