All Blacks' midfield conundrum
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen faces a tough decision when he picks his midfield combination for the Test against the Springboks in Durban on Saturday.
The All Blacks have plenty of depth for the No.12 and No.13 positions with the likes of Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown and George Moala at Hansen's disposal.
Crotty and Fekitoa have been the first-choice combination for New Zealand this year and will probably be the safe choice. However, Lienert-Brown has been turning heads with his performances this year.
Brown, 21, started in the No.13 jersey against Argentina last weekend and produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 36-17 win.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster was pleased with the maturity the youngster showed against the Pumas.
"He [Lienert-Brown] showed great composure," Foster told reporters at the team's base in Durban.
"He had a start at 12 [against Australia in August] and then he had a start at 13 [against Argentina] and dealt with both particularly well.
"He probably enjoys 13 a little bit more as there is more time and space. The way he prepared and dealt with that challenge was the most pleasing and then he just played his game.
"If it was on to run, he ran - if it was on to offload it, he threw it, so I think that is his biggest strength at the moment and he dealt with the defensive side [of the game]."
Foster added: "We are pretty comfortable with a number of options at the moment. We got George [Moala] who is coming back and he is 100 percent now and he is jumping out of his skin and we have Malakai [Fekitoa] who has done a great job for us there - we've got some good choices."
All Black wing Julian Savea also had a lot of praise for Lienert-Brown.
"He [Lienert-Brown] is doing his role really well," said Savea." He has been preparing really well and he is taking his opportunities.
"If he gets his opportunity [this weekend], he has got to do the same thing.
"He shows you that energy and he is always making yardage when he runs, so he is always keeping us on our toes.
"He brings that excitement to the game. We get excited when he gets excited."
By Warren Fortune, in Durban