8 Oct 2016

All Blacks keen to sweep aside Smith saga

7:40 am on 8 October 2016

New Zealand will aim for a clean sweep in this season's Rugby Championship to lift the mood around the squad after halfback Aaron Smith went home in disgrace.

Smith, arguably the world's leading number nine, was suspended for the All Blacks test against a struggling Springboks side after admitting to a liaison with a women in a disabled toilet at Christchurch Airport last month.

It would take a lot to disrupt this rampant All Blacks side, who have won all five of their Rugby Championship matches so far.

It is, however, perhaps the first time this season that their mental fortitude will be tested as the incident hogs sporting headlines around the world and puts the team in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

According to coach Steve Hansen, the decision to suspend Smith was unanimous within the leadership group of players.

TJ Perenara crosses the chalk.

TJ Perenara crosses the chalk. Photo: Photosport

His replacement will be TJ Perenara, who started the 36-17 victory over Argentina last weekend when Smith was rested.

Perenara will now make consecutive starts for the first time in his 24-test international career.

"Obviously he's (Smith) a world-class player and you want to be able to play him but TJ has had three 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.

Waisake Naholo

Waisake Naholo Photo: Photosport

Loose-forward Matt Todd has been given a start ahead of Ardie Savea, who dropped to the bench.

South Africa have yet to put together a convincing 80 minutes in 2016, but victory would likely secure them a second-place finish in the standings and go some way to turning public opinion in coach Allister Coetzee's favour.

"The All Blacks will be a huge Test, they are the number one side in the world and they have great form at the moment," Coetzee said.

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

Coetzee has stuck with the trusted boot of Morne Steyn at flyhalf after his match-winning performance in the scrappy 18-10 victory over Australia last weekend.

The only two changes to his starting lineup are both injury-enforced as halfback Faf de Klerk and centre Damian de Allende come in for Rudy Paige and Jesse Kriel respectively.

New Zealand have already been crowned champions of the southern hemisphere competition this season.