WELLINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Scrumhalf Aaron Smith will return to the All Blacks’ starting side for their Rugby Championship match against a resurgent South Africa in Auckland next Saturday in an attempt to speed up the world champions’ game.
TJ Perenara started in the number nine shirt against the Pumas on Saturday in New Plymouth and the All Blacks scored six tries in the 39-22 victory, but coach Steve Hansen said he felt Smith would give them more opportunities against the Springboks.
“I think we saw there is a difference between the speed of ball when Aaron’s there,” Hansen told reporters in New Plymouth on Sunday. “He’ll come back and I think that makes a difference to how we play.”
While the All Blacks have scored 19 tries in their three matches against Australia and Argentina, they have struggled with the line-speed of their opponents’ defence this season and lacked fluency in attack.
They have also been guilty of impatience, forcing plays when prudence would call for building more pressure.
Hansen said he was glad for the defensive challenges his players had encountered, as it would force them to perform under pressure and try to exploit space elsewhere.
All three of the world champions’ first half tries at Taranaki Regional Stadium to Nehe Milner-Skudder, Anton Leinert- Brown and Israel Dagg were created by finding space in three very different situations.
Damian McKenzie exploited a compressed defensive line to ghost through a gap and feed an unmarked Milner-Skudder, Lienert-Brown chased a Beauden Barrett chip kick through with no fullback sweeping, while Dagg finished off a lengthy buildup that sucked in Pumas defenders.
“They worked out ways they could combat it,” said Hansen.
The coach, nonetheless, felt there was plenty of work to do before facing South Africa, who are unbeaten in six tests this season after battling back from 10 points down to draw 23-23 with Australia in Perth.
Allister Coetzee’s side were humiliated twice last year by the All Blacks, losing 41-13 in Christchurch before they were thumped 57-15 in Cape Town as Hansen’s team ran in nine tries.
“South Africa are playing really well,” Hansen said.
“They seem to be incredibly tight with each other, so they’re obviously building something there from a culture point of view and that’ll make them more dangerous.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ian Ransom)