All Blacks v South Africa: Coach Ian Foster admits Beauden Barrett over Richie Mo'unga was close call for Springboks clash

All Blacks coach Ian Foster admits Richie Mo'unga is pushing Beauden Barrett hard for the starting first-five position, after naming his team to play the Springboks on Sunday (NZT).

Barrett started every game of New Zealand's test-series defeat to Ireland and has once again been entrusted with the responsibility for their opening Rugby Championship clash.

But Foster admits it was a close call, as the All Blacks look to silence the critics by winning in South Africa.

"Definitely, I think those two are working really, really well together," he said. "We are keen for Richie [Mo'unga] to have a big influence on our game.

"At the moment, the role we're giving him is off the bench, but we're certainly very, very open to that role changing down the track."

Like Barrett, Mo'unga was a part of every match squad for the tests against the Irish, albeit from the substitutes bench.

Foster has been impressed by the pair's performances on and off the field, and believes Mo'unga's role is just as important from the pine.

"I'm just delighted at the way those two are working together," he said. "The work they're doing off the park, and helping design and guide this time has been fantastic.

"We're looking for a double-punch between those two, regardless of which way around we play them."

Foster has been forced into changes to his regular tight five, with Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Nepo Laulala and Brodie Retallick all out injured.

Foster says every selection call is an important one and previous combinations had an influence on the team named.

"Some of the selection decisions have gone on combinations. If you look at Angus Ta'avao and Samisoni [Taukei'aho], they've played a lot together through the Chiefs. 

"If you look at the locks, putting Scott and Sam [Whitelock] together, they know each other's game inside out from their time together."

"We've probably erred on combinations with some of those key decisions. I'm still really interested in what sort of games we can use Scott [Barrett] at six, and do we go with that or do we bring in another lock in."