The All Blacks are hoping the most experienced side they have ever fielded in a Test match will help them get their 2010 Tri Nations campaign off to a wining start this weekend.
Having recalled storming Hurricanes centre Ma’a Nonu for his 47th cap, head coach Graham Henry has picked a starting XV that boasts 671 international appearances as he prepares to meet reigning champions South Africa head on Auckland’s Eden Park.
Nonu returns in place of Benson Stanley, who made his Test debut against Ireland last month, and comes into the heat of the Test arena having only played 70 minutes of club rugby since injuring himself in a Super 14 game in May.
New Zealand’s most experienced side ever – they will eclipse the 649 caps for the All Blacks' opening match of the 2007 World Cup against Italy in Marseille – will be seeking revenge on the Springboks for beating them three times last season as they ended their run of four successive titles.
"There are a lot of young guys knocking on the door and they will get their opportunity in time, just like the guys who are taking the field have had to wait to get their opportunity," said Henry after announcing his team.
"It's important to play the experienced players initially and let them prove they are good enough still to be there, and I'm sure they are."
Two other experienced head join Nonu in the back line. Joe Rokocoko continues his rise back up the All Blacks’ wing rankings by winning his 63rd cap (45 tries) ahead of young Zac Guildford, while Mils Muliaina retains his place at full back after playing the full 80 minutes in the second Test against Wales.
Tom Donnelly holds onto his place in the second row, while Owen Franks reutrns at tight head prop in place of Neemia Tialata
The Springboks arrive Auckland on Monday night, but have delayed naming their side because of injury concerns over locks Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Tom Donnelly, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Richard Kahui.