New Zealand will rest at least four key players for Saturday's Tri-Nations Test against South Africa, in a decision which is unlikely to win favour with all of its supporters.
Assistant coach Wayne Smith confirmed Monday that Crusaders forwards Brad Thorn, Owen Franks and Kieran Read, as well as Blues hooker Keven Mealamu will be released from the All Blacks squad this week to recuperate from tiring Super Rugby campaigns.
Smith said the All Blacks coaches were sticking to a plan to manage the workload of players to ensure none burned out before the World Cup.
But New Zealand fans have been wary of such policies since 2007 when a similar move to rest players backfired at that year's World Cup.
Lock Thorn, prop Franks, back row forward Read and Mealamu all missed New Zealand's opening test of the season against Fiji on Friday, but Smith said all four were still in need of rest after an arduous Super Rugby, especially the runner up Crusaders.
"We're just sticking to the plans that we've got," Smith said.
"So every player is on an individual plan and some are champing at the bit to get out and play, some are a wee bit overcooked ... so we're just sticking to that, making sure that we look after people.
"Our experience is that you're better to put the ones that are champing at the bit out there. We're about winning test matches and the hungry players, the ones that are fresh and ready to go, they'll be playing."
That may see centre Sonny Bill Williams and scrumhalf Andy Ellis, both from the Crusaders, return to the All Blacks line-up for Saturday's test in Wellington after missing the match against Fiji.
Smith insisted it was necessary to manage the workload of players individually in a World Cup season.
"It's not so much what they're saying, it's more what we've observed and experienced in the past, and also understanding what we've got coming up, so it's a joint decision," he said.
Smith said all players would likely be available for New Zealand's second Tri-Nations test against Australia in Auckland on August 6.
"We feel that by the time this game's over they would have had a couple of weeks at home with family, recovered, refreshed, recharged, ready to go," he said.
The Springboks, who lost 39-20 to Australia in Sydney on Saturday, have rested 21 frontline players for the away legs of their Tri-Nations fixtures, but Smith said their rest policy differed from New Zealand's.
"You can't really compare our situation to what the Springboks have done," he said. "The Springboks have made a choice to rest a big group of players. We're making individual choices on who's ready to play this week to win the test match and we're sticking to that."
The All Blacks also sought to manage players' workloads prior to the 2007 World Cup, withdrawing squad members from almost half of that year's Super 14.
They went on to lose to hosts France in the quarterfinals -their worst-ever World Cup campaign - and later conceded players may have been lacking match play.
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