New Zealand v South Africa, Rugby Championship
Liam Messam preferred to Steve Luatua
September 12, 2013
New Zealand's Liam Messam is wrapped up by Argentina, New Zealand v Argentina, Rugby Championship, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, September 8, 2012
Liam Messam was preferred because of his greater Test experience © Getty Images

Steve Hansen has named Liam Messam ahead of Steven Luatua as one of five changes to his New Zealand team to play South Africa in the top-of-the-table Rugby Championship Test at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

Sam Cane, meanwhile, replaces injured captain Richie McCaw at openside flanker and Dane Coles starts at hooker with 105-Test veteran Keven Mealamu to provide impact from the bench. Owen Franks returns to make his 50th Test and inside centre Ma'a Nonu is fit again after missing the Argentina Test to rehabilitate an ankle problem.

Charlie Faumuina moves to the bench to make way for Franks, joining Luatua, who is covering lock and loose forward, and injury-replacement openside flanker Matt Todd. Kieran Read will captain the team in his 55th Test.

Hansen said the decision to recall Messam from a hamstring injury was tough on Luatua. "In the end we have gone for Liam's extra experience and physicality, but we also know that Steven will enter the contest at some stage," he said.

Coles' selection as starting hooker was perhaps a surprise selection, the selectors showing faith in the Wellington and Hurricanes hooker as one of their replacements for the long-standing duo of Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu with Hore reportedly looking to retire at the end of The Rugby Championship.

Hansen said the Freedom Cup Test on Saturday was shaping as a massive encounter. "The physical challenge will be huge - as it always it is - and the team that executes their game with the greatest effectiveness, clarity and intensity will be the one that comes out on top," He said.

Hansen said the game, between the two teams unbeaten in The Rugby Championship, would give a "great indication of what level our game is at".

South Africa are unchanged having named the starting XV and bench that humbled Australia 38-12 in Brisbane.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Matt Todd, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

Follow live text commentary of the Test between New Zealand and South Africa on Saturday, September 14, from 5pm (AEST), 7pm (NZT), 9am (SAST), 7am (GMT)

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