New Zealand v South Africa, Rugby Championship
Steven Luatua or Liam Messam?
September 8, 2013
Steven Luatua is one of the rising stars of world rugby © Getty Images
New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen faces an interesting selection poser ahead of The Rugby Championship Test against South Africa at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
The emergence of Auckland and Blues flanker Steven Luatua as a blindside flanker option has been one of the impressive features of the championship far for the New Zealanders, but Liam Messam, the man whose injury provided him with his chance, is likely to be fit for selection this week.
"It will be a tough choice," Hansen said of his back-row considerations. "It might come down to how we manage the bench and how we manage Liam so whether we can afford to start Liam or bring him off the bench and take the risk that we've already subbed Steven. All those things will come into consideration."
Hansen said New Zealand would prepare as normal but he acknowledged the magnitude of the fixture. "We've just got to prepare well as always and bring our intensity and our focus and our intent to the game, and see what they bring."
Hansen said "the Springboks have been good all season".
"They are trying to play some rugby as well as keeping their physicality, but they've sped up their game; they are using their backs a lot more. This will be the first time they have had so many bonus points in this competition so that is a reflection of how they are using the ball. So they are going to be really, really tough. It's going to be a great Test match."
Liam Messam was in career-best form before his injury © Getty Images
The Springboks believe they still have room to improve