James O'Connor will start at fly-half, while Rory Arnold and Lalakai Foketi have also been included in the Australia side to face Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

O'Connor gets the nod to don the number 10 shirt in the absence of Quade Cooper, who suffered an Achilles injury in the 41-26 win over the Pumas last weekend.

Arnold has recovered from a calf injury and the lock will make his first Wallabies start of the year at Estadio Bicentenario.

Centre Lalakai Foketi has been handed a maiden start by Dave Rennie, partnering Len Ikitau, and prop Taniela Tupo is back in the team in San Juan after Allan Alaalatoa returned home for personal reasons.

Pone Fa'amausili is set to make his debut off the bench, while Irae Simone is also among the replacements.

Australia head coach Rennie said: "After a tough, physical game last week it's great to be able to call on the experience of guys like James and Rory and also see the team's excitement for La and Irae who get to wear the Wallaby gold again on Saturday.

"It's going to be a proud occasion for Pone and his family and it's a testament to him for the hard work and obstacles he's had to overcome to earn his first Test cap."

 

Australia team: Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete, James O'Connor, Nic White; James Slipper (captain), Folau Fainga’a, Taniela Tupou, Rory Arnold, Darcy Swain, Jed Holloway, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini.

Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Matt Gibbon, Pone Fa'amausili, Nick Frost, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Irae Simone, Reece Hodge.

Beauden Barrett will drop to the bench for New Zealand's tussle with South Africa on Saturday, with Richie Mo'unga brought in at fly-half as one of four changes made by under-pressure All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.

New Zealand fell to a 26-10 defeat to the Springboks in their opening match of the Rugby Championship last weekend, recording three consecutive Test defeats for the first time since a run of five without victory in 1998.

Having also overseen a first home series defeat to Ireland, Foster has come under increasing scrutiny after the All Blacks slumped to an all-time low of fifth in the world rankings.

New Zealand have suffered five defeats in their past six Tests, but Foster vowed to fight on after the defeat to South Africa, and will rely on Mo'unga to provide creativity in Johannesburg.

Barrett was passed fit to play despite being involved in a heavy collision with Kurt-Lee Arendese in the Rugby Championship opener, but Foster has handed Mo'unga his first start of the year at number 10.

New Zealand's other changes come in the forward line, with Props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax, as well as flanker Shannon Frizell, all introduced.

There has been speculation that a defeat at Ellis Park would end Foster's thee-year tenure, but he remains upbeat.

"Belief and confidence remain high in our group, which is working incredibly hard this week," Foster said. 

"Playing at Ellis Park is always a special occasion for any All Black team, and this weekend will be no different. Adding to that, the Freedom Cup is on the line, which makes this a challenge that everyone is looking forward to."

Mo'unga insists New Zealand are shutting out criticism of their performances.

He said: "They [the supporters] care about our team and care about our results, but it's also fair of us to not care about what they think because we have a role to do, a role to play, and hearing that isn't going to help us at this moment.

"I'm at a stage now if you're not in our squad, I don't really care what you think, with all respect. We're trying our best, and we know it's not good enough for All Blacks standards."

New Zealand team: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ethan de Groot, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tyrel Lomax, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Shanon Frizell, Sam Cane (captain), Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Tupoi Vaa'I, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Beuden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.

New Zealand have dropped to an all-time low of fifth in the world rankings after losing to South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener on Saturday.

The All Blacks started the defence of their title with a 26-10 defeat at the hands of the world champions at Mbombela Stadium.

It was a third consecutive loss for New Zealand, representing their worst run since they were beaten five times in a row back in 1998.

The Springboks piled more pressure on under-fire All Blacks head coach Steve Foster, who vowed to fight on after a first ever home series loss to Ireland.

Another setback in Nelspruit has dropped New Zealand below England just over a year before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

It is now five defeats in six Tests for the All Blacks, who face South Africa once again at Ellis Park this weekend with Foster's job seemingly on the line.

Ireland are top of the rankings ahead of France, with the Springboks third.

Quade Cooper says he is "ready and prepared for this journey" after suffering an Achilles injury during Australia's Rugby Championship 41-26 win over Argentina on Saturday.

The fly-half went down injured seven minutes into the second half after slipping while in possession, and grabbed for his left leg before leaving the field with support from medical staff.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie revealed after the game that Cooper's injury appeared to be "pretty serious".

The 34-year-old had only just returned from a strained calf that saw him miss the home series defeat to England, and faces a long lay-off just over a year before the Rugby World Cup in France.

Cooper took to Instagram on Sunday to thank his team-mates and medical staff, while vowing to support his team-mates from the sidelines.

He wrote: "Ready and prepared for this journey. Doesn’t mean it will be easy but I know I’ve prepared myself for the challenge ahead by building systems and habits to guide me through each obstacle on my path.

"Prepare for the storm so you are strong enough to endure it.

"Want to thank both my team-mates and the Argentinian players for their support and care when I got injured. My team-mates who continue to help me learn and grow each day I will miss you all but be supporting your journey as I continue mine.

"Our coaches for believing in me and continuing to push my growth. Our medical team who put so much time and energy into each and everyone of us."

Australia produced an excellent second-half showing to come from behind and secure a 41-26 victory against Argentina in Mendoza in the 2022 Rugby Championship.

Having suffered a 2-1 series defeat at the hands of former coach Eddie Jones' England last month, the Wallabies may have been fearing the same with Michael Cheika leading Argentina.

But Australia avoided a similar fate on Saturday despite a spirited first-half performance from the hosts.

Los Pumas scored the first try after just five minutes, with Pablo Matera picking up a short pass before diving over the line.

An Australian penalty was followed by two for Argentina, before the Wallabies fought back to narrow the deficit to three points after 17 minutes as Jordan Petaia was given the ball out of a scrum before powering through the opposition defence to cross.

The boot of Emiliano Boffelli added more penalty points shortly thereafter, with the contest becoming more tense as Argentina attempted to pull away, but a stubborn Australia side managed to stay in the game.

Boffelli scored another three points just before the break as his team went in 19-10 ahead, but Fraser McReight scored Australia's second try eight minutes into the second half off the back of a rolling maul.

Argentina may have thought they had seen off their opponents when they responded with a try of their own through Juan Martin Gonzalez as he went over in the corner, but when a collapsed maul led to a penalty try for Australia in the 55th minute, with lock Matias Alemanno receiving a yellow card, it provided the impetus the visitors needed.

Reece Hodge scored a penalty to give the Wallabies the lead, before a try from Folau Fainga'a took the wind out of Argentina's sails and Len Ikitau rubbed salt in the wounds with another deep into overtime, sealing an entertaining win for Dave Rennie's team.

Pumas feel comeback brunt

Having come back from 31-20 down with 15 minutes to go to beat Scotland in July, Cheika's new team know what it takes to overturn a deficit.

Unfortunately for him, his former side also have the capacity for a comeback, as they demonstrated with vigour when taking full advantage of dropping Argentinian heads, scoring 24 unanswered points after Gonzalez's try in the 55th minute.

Loss of Alemanno makes all the difference

A yellow card for Alemanno after the collapsed maul that led to Australia's penalty try was the real turning point in the game.

From that point on, Argentina did not score another point, with Rennie's side wearing them down with relative ease in the closing stages.

Handre Pollard stepped up to the plate in the absence of Faf de Klerk to kick South Africa to an opening 26-10 win over New Zealand in the 2022 Rugby Championship.

The Springboks saw their scrum-half taken off on a stretcher inside two minutes at Mbombela Stadium after a head knock to leave them light of one of their key creative forces.

But fly-half partner Pollard unfurled a judiciously managed game plan amid a raggedly entertaining encounter that saw the world champions get their campaign off to a victorious start.

Jacques Nienaber was left to sweat on what could have been a tough evening when De Klerk was forced from the field after he collided with the knee of winger Caleb Clarke.

Despite the loss of their influential half-back, an energised Springboks side still struck first, with Kurt-Lee Arendse and Lukhanyo Am's one-two combination off a box kick earning a breakaway try for the former.

A penalty against the All Blacks for coming off their feet allowed Pollard to add three more from the tee at the quarter-game mark, before Beauden Barrett responded with a kick in kind five minutes before the break.

The need to establish some equilibrium pressed at New Zealand after the interval, but they were unable to snatch at the chances afforded them by an open encounter, and Pollard was on hand to convert another penalty less than a quarter-hour into the second half.

Seven minutes later, the fly-half slotted a field goal in the pocket to stretch the hosts' lead well into double digits, and another from the tee with eight minutes left seemingly wrapped things up for the Springboks.

There was to be an unfortunate late incident to mar matters, as Arendse was shown a red card for taking Barrett out in the air, with the former carried off after the collision and the latter managing to leave on his own two feet.

The man advantage allowed a late breakaway try for Shannon Frizell to cut the deficit to single digits, but it was ultimately too little too late for the All Blacks as Willie Le Roux nabbed a response following a loss of possession inside their own 22-area at the final hooter.

 

Dave Rennie says captain Michael Hooper has shown "true courage" by withdrawing from Australia's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina.

The flanker opted against facing the Pumas at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Saturday, as he is not in the right frame of mind to play.

James Slipper will step in to lead the Wallabies in Mendonza, with Hooper heading home and Fraser McReight getting a late call to take the number seven shirt.

Australia head coach Rennie praised Hooper for making such a brave decision.

"Michael's one of the most professional and impressive men I've coached I know this has been a difficult decision for him," he said.

"He's shown true courage by acknowledging where he is at and acting on it.

"We will support him in any way we can and I know the team will be focused on getting the job done tomorrow."

Hooper said: "While this decision did not come easily I know it is the right one for me and the team at this point in time.

"My whole career I’ve looked to put the team first and I don't feel I am able to fulfil my responsibilities at the moment in my current mindset."

Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos says Hooper will be given all the support he needs.

He said: "Michael is an incredible leader, it takes a brave man to identify where he’s at and come forward whilst having the best interests of the team at heart.

"His wellbeing is and remains the highest priority right now where Rugby Australia and the Australian Rugby community will do everything to support him and his family."

South Africa are favourites to inflict a third consecutive defeat on New Zealand for the first time since 1998 when they meet in a huge Rugby Championship battle on Saturday.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is under pressure after New Zealand lost a home series to Ireland for the first time last month.

A trip to face the world champions twice at the start of the Rugby Championship would appear to be make or break for Foster, who needs his side to step up in the first game of the tournament at Mbombela Stadium.

New Zealand won the title last year, but have lost their way just 13 months before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

Meanwhile, Argentina do battle with Australia at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on the opening day, with the Wallabies having been so short of success away from home as Michael Cheika looks to mastermind a victory over his former team.

Stats Perform preview the Tests in Nelspruit and Mendoza with the use of Opta facts.

SOUTH AFRICA V NEW ZEALAND

FORM

South Africa start the Rugby Championship on the back of a 2-1 series win over Wales and have been victorious in six of their past seven Tests on home soil, conceding 20 points or more in just one of those matches.

It is just one win in five Tests for the out-of-sorts All Blacks, who last lost three in a row 24 years ago. They were beaten in five consecutive matches from July to August 1998, with the Springboks winning two of those contests.

New Zealand have a strong record in South Africa, though, having won their past four away Tests against the Springboks

ONES TO WATCH

Damian Willemse caught the eye against Wales, ranking in the top five for both metres gained (190m – third) and line breaks (three – joint-fourth) among players from Tier One nations in the July Tests. The All Blacks will have to prevent the in-form full-back from doing further damage.

Number eight Ardie Savea is among the senior figures who Foster will be counting on to have a big influence. Savea was the only player to score three tries versus a Tier One nation last month, striving in vain to prevent Ireland from making history.

 

​ARGENTINA V AUSTRALIA

FORM

Argentina have a spring in their step after a 2-1 series victory over Scotland and have their sights on back-to-back wins for the first time since November 2020 as Cheika finds himself in the strange position of plotting Australia's downfall.

The Wallabies are smarting from a series loss to England on home soil and have won only one of their past nine Tests outside of Australia – versus Japan last October.

Australia have become accustomed to getting the better of the Pumas, though, winning four and drawing two of the previous six encounters. Six of the past seven Tests between the two nations in Argentina have gone the way of the touring side.

ONES TO WATCH

Argentina's dramatic series win over Scotland came courtesy of a last-gasp try from Emiliano Boffelli, who also scored 14 points with the boot and provided an assist.

Quade Cooper returns from injury to start at fly-half for Australia. Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie will expect the number 10 and scrum-half Nic White to dictate the tempo.

Jed Holloway will make his Test debut and Quade Cooper returns to the Australia starting line-up for their first game of the Rugby Championship against Argentina on Saturday.

Holloway has been given the nod at blindside flanker for the game at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, while Cooper is back at fly-half after recovering from a calf strain.

Prop Matt Gibbon is set to make his Wallabies bow off the bench in Mendoza, where hooker Folau Fainga'a makes his first international start this year.

Second row Darcy Swain has been restored to the team after serving a ban for the red card he was given for a clash with Jonny Hill in the first Test against England.

Dave Rennie's side have been licking their wounds since losing the decisive final match of the series to the Red Rose last month.

Head coach Rennie said: "We've had a strong week of preparation over here in Argentina, and we are highly motivated to put on a performance that makes our supporters proud back home in Australia.

"It's an extremely special occasion for Jed, Matt and their families, and it's up to the rest of us to make sure it's a positive memory on their Test debuts.

"Argentina will be full of confidence after their home series win over Scotland, and we know we'll need to be at our best to get a good result on Saturday afternoon."

 

Australia team: Tom Wright, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Marika Koroibete, Quade Cooper, Nic White; James Slipper, Folau Fainga'a, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Matt Philip, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper (captain), Rob Valetini.

Replacements: Lachlan Lonergan, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Nick Frost, Rob Leota, Pete Samu, Jake Gordon, Reece Hodge.

Ian Foster will know there is more than just Rugby Championship points at stake when wounded New Zealand start their campaign against South Africa on Saturday.

Foster is under huge pressure after the All Blacks suffered a first home Test series defeat to Ireland last month.

New Zealand have come under fire following a 32-22 loss against Andy Farrell's inspired side in the decider in Wellington, with growing calls for Foster to be sacked.

Mark Robinson, the New Zealand Rugby chief executive, was unable to offer head coach Foster long-term backing before the squad boarded the plane for two Tests against the world champions.

Asked about Foster's future, he told Newstalk ZB: "He's certainly the person to lead the team to South Africa, and we're making sure they've got everything possible in the way of resourcing and support to make sure that's successful."

Robinson had stated that the 2-1 series defeat to Ireland was "not acceptable", and it would appear he will not tolerate further painful setbacks in South Africa.

Assistant coaches John Plumtree and Brad Mooar lost their jobs after Ireland's historic triumph, but Foster has vowed to fight on just 13 months before the Rugby World Cup starts in France.

Winning the Rugby Championship title last year must seem like a distant memory for Foster as his side prepared to start the defence of their crown at Mbombela Stadium.

Following years of dominance, New Zealand are fourth in the rankings, and this is something of a crisis by their standards.

Victory for the Springboks in Nelspruit this weekend would represent a third defeat in a row for New Zealand for the first time since they lost five consecutive Tests in July and August 1998, two of which came at the hands of South Africa.

Foster has made four changes to his team for the opening match of the tournament, bringing in lock Scott Barrett, hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho, tighthead prop Angus Ta'avao and wing Caleb Clarke.

South Africa have not beaten New Zealand at home since a 27-25 success in 2014, but Jacques Nienaber's men will be favourites to end that wait on Saturday.

The Springboks have won six of their past seven Tests on home soil, the last of which was a 30-14 defeat of Wales in Cape Town that sealed a 2-1 series victory.

A formidable, powerful force when at their brutal best, facing South Africa in their own backyard is an almighty challenge, and Foster will need warriors to step up with his job seemingly on the line.

Argentina and Australia get the tournament under way at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on Saturday, with the Pumas on a high from securing a dramatic series win over Scotland.

They won the decider against Gregor Townsend's men 34-31 last month thanks to a last-gasp try from Emiliano Boffelli and will now attempt to end a six-Test winless streak against the Wallabies.

Australia have been licking their wounds since suffering a 2-1 Test series defeat at home to England, and they have won only one of their past nine Tests played away from home – that victory being over Japan last October. 

Under-fire New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has made four changes to his XV for the All Blacks' first Test against South Africa, bidding to "add new experiences and grow our game".

New Zealand begin their Rugby Championship campaign with a double-header against the Springboks as they look to bounce back from a series defeat at home to Ireland.

Sevu Reece has made way for Caleb Clarke for the Mbombela opener, while Scott Barrett comes into the second row for the injured Brodie Retallick. Samisoni Taukei'aho and Angus Ta'avao will also play, as Codie Taylor and Nepo Laulala both drop out of the 23-man squad.

Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot make the squad for the first time in the 2022 international season, starting from the bench.

There has been much talk around Foster's future after the All Blacks' first home series loss since 1994, but he is looking forward to the challenge of these two matches.

"What a great way to start this year's Rugby Championship," Foster said. "It's always an exciting tournament to be part of.

"This year's draw means we have a massive challenge of two games here in the South Africa. We have settled in well in Mbombela and are preparing for what is always an intense game against our old foe.

"Many of our squad are here in South Africa for the first time. This gives us another opportunity to add new experiences and grow our game." 

 

New Zealand team: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; George Bower, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Angus Ta'avao, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Sam Cane (captain), Ardie Savea.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ethan De Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa'i, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga, Quinn Tupaea.

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson has offered no guarantees over All Blacks head coach Ian Foster's long-term future, stating "he’s certainly the person to lead the team to South Africa".

Foster came under increasing pressure after Ireland secured a first Test series win over the All Blacks in New Zealand this month.

Robinson stated that 2-1 defeat was "not acceptable", but Foster has kept his job and vowed to fight on as his side prepare to start the Rugby Championship with two away fixtures against the Springboks.

Yet CEO Robinson did not provide unequivocal backing for Foster when he was interviewed by Newstalk ZB at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

He said when asked about Foster's future: "He's certainly the person to lead the team to South Africa, and we're making sure they've got everything possible in the way of resourcing and support to make sure that's successful."

Former All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen this week slammed NZ Rugby, claiming the relationship between All Blacks players and the board is "probably the worst it's ever been".

Hansen lashed out over the treatment of Foster and former Black Ferns coach Glenn Moore, who resigned in April, making it clear that he was not impressed with the governing bodies conducting reviews over their futures.

The outspoken Hansen also highlighted the decision to bring in investment from US private equity firm Silver Lake as he accused the governing body of not "doing their job right".

Robinson has attempted to set the record straight.

He said: "One thing that seems to be coming through in some media is constant referral to reviews... that's simply not the case.

"But something that is very regular in all our environments is there are constant conversations about how we improve, and that’s a big part of the All Blacks as well."

He added with regards to Hansen's criticism: "I know he’s incredibly protective of Ian, and he's looking out for his mate, and I think we all understand that, too. Certainly we'll have a chat when the time is right.

"Regarding the players, we're working hard and well in that space around things in general, but also with regard to a new partner coming on with Silver Lake."

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has been talked up as a potential replacement for Foster, but Robinson refused to be drawn on speculation.

He said: "I understand the sentiment of our fans. That's been coming through loud and clear. We know Razor [Robertson] has a huge amount to offer the game in New Zealand... but to comment any further wouldn't be appropriate."

Ian Foster is confident he has full backing from the New Zealand squad, despite two of his assistant coaches losing their jobs after a poor run of form.

All Blacks management announced on Sunday that John Plumtree and Brad Mooar have left their roles on the back of a first home series defeat to Ireland last weekend.

Jason Ryan will join from Crusaders as Plumtree's successor as forwards coach ahead of the Rugby Championship, which begins in two weeks' time.

Former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has also now started his role as an independent selector and will work closely with Foster, who looks set to retain his job heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Amid growing calls for Scott Robertson to take over as New Zealand head coach, Foster is focusing on the task at hand.

"I believe I've got the group and now I've got to deliver the plan," he told Sky Sport. "Part of the changes I've made is about making sure I'm not taking for granted their belief in the direction that I'm heading. 

"But I'm also listening to them and making the changes that we all feel we need for this team."

Regarding whether he has the absolute backing of the players, Foster said: "That's one of the questions I got them to talk about.

"I'm not in the room. It was just them and with all the noise around, there's been a lot of people putting me under pressure for a long, long time, so in many ways this isn't new.

"They also did a similar process with New Zealand Rugby as is normal after a series. I think we got a clear mandate that there's a strong belief in the direction we're going.

"But there's a feeling we need to get a new voice in there and make some changes to get the gains we really want to get."

A defiant Ian Foster has vowed to prove he is the right man to coach New Zealand after naming his squad for the Rugby Championship.

Foster knows he is under pressure after the All Blacks suffered a first home series defeat to Ireland last weekend.

The under-fire head coach was due to face the media last Sunday, but the press conference was cancelled at late notice and there had been no word from the New Zealand camp until Foster fronted up in Auckland on Friday.

The 57-year-old has retained Sam Cane as captain following reports he would be replaced, while prop Ethan de Groot and loose forward Shannon Frizell replace Karl Tu'inukuafe and Pita Gus Sowakula in a 36-man squad.

Foster says he will fight on as New Zealand prepare to start the Rugby Championship with a clash against world champions South Africa at Mbombela Stadium on August 6.

He said: "As a head coach, there have been a lot of questions the past couple of weeks. Let me tell you who I am, I'm strong, I'm resilient, I think I've proven that.

"I believe I've got a great feel and relationship with my players. I'm strategic and I'm also accountable and I take that on board.

"I promise you, I understand that and I'm really excited about the chance to show you what this team is made of, working alongside the players we've selected in this squad."

Foster revealed Joe Schmidt will not travel to South Africa but is helping him with "strategic areas" of the game and says he will make changes to his staff.

There have been calls for Scott Robertson to take over as All Blacks head coach, but Foster is confident he can turn things around ahead of the World Cup next year.

"There's no doubt about that I’m under pressure," he added. "But can I just say, I'm always under pressure?

"I've always felt that pressure and external people will try to intensify that pressure but it doesn't change the fact that as an All Blacks coach you live in that world all the time.

"Does it hurt? Yes it does. The key thing for me is making sure everything I do is about ensuring we have robust processes and make sure we have got the right people sitting in the right seats."

Foster says he can see why the decision to cancel a media conference the day after losing to Ireland did not go down well.

"I understand the frustration [about the cancelled news conference]," he said.

"All I want to say on that regard is that I as a head coach would never ever not communicate with my fanbase when it’s expected I communicate with them.

"I know my responsibility is to talk to the fanbase and if I knew I was supposed to do that, I would do that all the time.

"I love the passion of our fans and I love the opinions. That is what it is, but I guess all I can assure people is the person that I am and my role in this team.

"I'm not here for any other reason than to do the best I can for this team. Right now, I can understand frustrations that we've lost a series, but my job is to put perspective around that, to make sure we take the lessons and this All Blacks team comes out stronger, I want to be part of the solution.

"Will there be some changes? Yes there will, but like I said, I'll let you know shortly."

 

New Zealand Rugby Championship squad:

Forwards: Dane Coles, Samisoni Taukeiaho, Codie Taylor. Aidan Ross, George Bower, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Ethan de Groot, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'i, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane (captain),  Shannon Frizell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu.
 

Backs: Finlay Christie, Folau Fakatava, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo'unga, Stephen Perofeta, Jack Goodhue, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Quinn Tupaea, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece.
Replacement players travelling to South Africa: Josh Dickson, Braydon Ennor, Tyrel Lomax.

Eben Etzebeth is open to the idea of South Africa playing in the Six Nations in future, saying he would "love" to participate in the competition.

The Springboks are committed to playing in The Rugby Championship with Argentina, Australia and New Zealand until 2025, but it has been rumoured that the organisers of the Six Nations are considering inviting them to join beyond that.

South African club sides now take part in the United Rugby Championship, also involving teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

While Etzebeth plays for Toulon in France, he has signed on to play for the Cell C Sharks from the 2022-23 season.

Speaking to the Rugby Roots programme, the lock said: "I think the Six Nations would be good for us.

"Obviously, it just makes sense with us playing in the URC at the moment against the same competition."

The 30-year-old – who has 97 caps for South Africa – would still like to be able to play against the other Southern Hemisphere sides, and hopes a balance can be found.

"Maybe we could have a full June series against New Zealand, play in the Six Nations and then have an end-of-year tour in Australia or Argentina," he added.

"I would love to join the Six Nations, but I would also love to still play those other teams as well. Maybe they (World Rugby) can get a good balance.

"At the end of the day, for me, it's just about playing for South Africa."

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