Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber said they could’ve included Handre Pollard and pushed him to be around 80% fit around the World Cup kick-off, but they did not want to risk him getting injured again.
THE SPRINGBOKS could’ve included Handre Pollard and pushed him to be around 80% fit around the World Cup kick-off, but the chances of him breaking down again during the tournament is something they couldn’t risk.
That’s why the decision was made to omit the 2019 World Cup winner from the 33-player squad announced last Tuesday and to rather have him on the reserve list for the tournament.
It will give Pollard travelling and training time with the squad, while the pressure won’t be on him too much to recover from a calf injury in time to play in the World Cup pool stage.
South Africa will play two more warm-up matches against Wales on Saturday and New Zealand at Twickenham the following Friday before heading to France.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said they could’ve risked Pollard as he is over his injury, but they did not want to risk him getting injured again.
“The thing about Handre, he is currently not injured. He is over his injury and has trained for us now for two sessions, but he is still on his way back,” Nienaber said.
“Over the six years, I have to explain this, but I don’t want to sound too scientific, say Player X has played for us in a position. We have six years of data on what he needs to do during a week to give us an opportunity to win on Saturday.
“It might be metrics like how many kilometres he has covered, his high-speed running, how many accelerations and decelerations he needs to perform, to be ready to perform physically on Saturday in a Test.
“Handre is currently at about 20-25% of the loads he needs to be at. He has done one attack and one defence session.”
Nienaber emphasised that they would rather have Pollard back in the squad when he is ready to produce than run the risk of injuring him before or during the pool stage of the World Cup.
Should the Boks in the next two warm-ups pick up any injuries to the existing squad of 33 players, there is a chance that Pollard will be called up. But that also depends on what position the injury is in.
There was an outcry because of the four scrumhalves that Nienaber included, and only Manie Libbok as specialist flyhalf. But the Boks have several players who can fill in at pivot should it be necessary.
“Handre is in the return-to-play phase of his injury, whereas a guy like Luky (Lukhanyo Am) is still injured. We can press him now to do 100% of what a guy like Manie or Gaza (Damian Willemse) is doing during the week,” Nienaber said.
“He is currently operating at 25%, 30%, maybe 50% at most. We can push him to 80%, but the risk of us losing him in the next three to four weeks is probably 80%. It’s a numbers game.
“I hope this explanation is understandable.”
Pollard was crucial in the Boks winning of the 2019 title and if an injury should arise in the backline or among the locks or loose forwards, the Leicester Tigers flyhalf could be brought in as a substitute. But Nienaber said he won’t swap the flyhalf in if a prop or hooker is injured.
SA will submit their final World Cup squad to World Rugby next Monday.