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All Blacks aim to lift mood

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 6/10/2016

Sam Whitelock of New Zealand speaks during an All Blacks media conference at the Garden Court Umhlanga Hotel on October 6, 2016 in Durban, South Africa. © Steve Haag/Getty Images Sam Whitelock of New Zealand speaks during an All Blacks media conference at the Garden Court Umhlanga Hotel on October 6, 2016 in Durban, South Africa. Aaron Smith's indiscretions have been swept aside as the All Blacks target a Rugby Championship clean sweep with a win over struggling South Africa in Durban this weekend.

Smith has been sent home in disgrace after admitting a liaison with a woman in a disabled toilet while with the team at Christchurch Airport last month.

But coach Steve Hansen says Smith's absence, and the furore surrounding the incident, won't distract the All Blacks as they look to extend their winning streak to a record-equalling 17 games.

Smith's replacement at halfback, TJ Perenara, will now make consecutive starts for the first time in his 24-Test career.

Hansen says he has every confidence in the Hurricanes No.9, who also started in last week's 36-17 win over Argentina.

"Obviously he's (Smith) a world-class player and you want to be able to play him but TJ has had two good stints there now," Hansen told reporters.

"He played really well when he came off the bench against Argentina (in New Zealand), a good portion of the game against South Africa in Christchurch and then got a start against Argentina and played well."

Other than Smith's omission, Hansen's selections were as expected, with flanker Jerome Kaino and wing Waisake Naholo returning from injury.

Kaino, 33, injured his shoulder in the All Blacks' 41-13 mauling of the Springboks in Christchurch three weeks ago and completes a new-look loose trio for the Durban match.

Matt Todd has been given a start ahead of Ardie Savea, who dropped to the bench as All Blacks management look to safeguard his long-term development.

"We just feel that as a young player, we're asking a lot of him and that we would benefit from giving him a bit of a breather," Hansen said.

The All Blacks coach is expecting to face a torrid battle from a confident Springboks outfit which edged Australia 18-10 in Pretoria last week, and has a daunting record at Kings Park.

"You look at the record here in Durban: we've played them eight times and only won three of them," Hansen said.

"The inconvenient facts are that they go well here."

The only two changes to Springboks coach Allister Coetzee's starting lineup are both injury-enforced.

Halfback Faf de Klerk comes in for Rudy Paige while centre Damian de Allende replaces Jesse Kriel.

Coetzee has stuck with the trusted boot of Morne Steyn after the experienced first five-eighth scored all South Africa's points in the win over Australia.

"It is important for us to end the campaign with a good performance," Coetzee said.

"What I would like to see is that we keep on improving as a team and build on our continuity and converting more of our opportunities into points."

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