Coach Steve Hansen has seemingly dropped Savea because of fears over his ability under the high ball and the likelihood that the Springboks will use plenty of kicking in the highveld Test.
The All Blacks are also expecting a fierce physical onslaught from the home team and Hansen has made one change to the starting pack, with Brodie Retallick replacing Luke Romano at lock.
Romano suffered facial cuts last weekend against Argentina and has been unable to train fully this week.
“Luke got beaten up a bit and has a lot of cuts, meaning he hasn’t played a full part in training, while we thought we’d give Julian a wee breather. We have a lot of confidence in Hosea Gear,” Hansen said at a news conference in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Romano will swap places with Retallick and start off the bench on Saturday and there are three other changes amongst the reserves with prop Ben Franks, flank Adam Thomson and utility back Tamati Ellison replacing Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane and Ben Smith.
The absence of Cane robs the All Blacks of an out-and-out fetcher, but Hansen said the bigger Thomson would boost their lineout.
“Adam definitely gives us another lineout option. He’s been part of the set-up for a long time and we’ve just been waiting for his injury to clear up so we can give him a crack. He had a busy SuperRugby season, but the extra lineout option is the reason for the change,” Hansen said.
With Johan Goosen now playing at flyhalf, Hansen expects the Springboks to probe for gaps with ball in hand more than they did in their previous meeting in Dunedin three weeks ago when Morne Steyn was at 10 and the All Blacks won 21-11.
“Inside their own half they’ll kick, but in our half they’ll run more and play more of a continuity game. I expect we’ll see a lot more movement of the ball than in Dunedin, Goosen is a pretty classy player. He takes the ball to the line, he can break himself or put others in space. He’s quite special,” Hansen said.
The successor to World Cup-winning coach Sir Graham Henry said it was important for the All Blacks not to focus on the venue, the 94 700-capacity Soccer City, the same field on which the 2010 football world cup final was played.
“We have a lot of experience through the spine of the team and those guys have played all over the world and seen most places. So when they get on the field, it’s all the same for them, it’s a bit of grass with lines painted on. That’s the mindset you want.
“Sure, 90 000 people will make a lot of noise, but if you do things right on the field then you quieten them down and it becomes your place,” Hansen said.
Team – 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Hosea Gear, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw, 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock. Reserves: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Luke Romano, 19-Adam Thomson, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Aaron Cruden, 22-Tamati Ellison.