Pollard 'a neck ahead' of Elton Jantjies
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says Handré Pollard’s progress since recovering from injury gives him “a lot of confidence” in selecting the flyhalf for the Australasian leg of the Rugby Championship.
Pollard who comes into the touring group in place of Curwin Bosch – he was released to the Sharks for Currie Cup duty – was yesterday named in Coetzee’s squad after taking part in team training over the last couple of weeks.
Pollard has 20 Test appearances since making his debut in 2014 but has played very little rugby in the last 16 months because of ankle and knee injuries.
After the team’s arrival in Cape Town yesterday, Coetzee said he was “tempted to select him” for their recent Championship-opener against Argentina in Port Elizabeth.
“Handré has made tremendous strides since he joined us in Stellenbosch and the two weeks in Port Elizabeth – I was tempted to select him then. But I thought another week with regards to his conditioning, his out-of-hand kicking and his kicking to posts (would be good) we’ll see on Friday,” the Bok coach said.
“People say, ‘why doesn’t he play Currie Cup’. The intensity at which we train is higher than match intensity and there’s the physical component as well. The way he’s responded gives me a lot of confidence to select him.”
Pollard’s inclusion places a huge question mark over the role of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf. The Lions playmaker had a good outing in PE and an even better one in Salta as he controlled the game well and added a few great touches as Man of the Match.
Coetzee said he was excited to see Bosch, who made his debut off the bench at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, apply at the Sharks what he’d learned while in the Springbok camp.
“We will have to manage Bosch correctly. He will play for the Springboks for a very long time he’s done well. I’d like to see the confidence he’ll take back to the Sharks.
“Continuity is crucial but … the weeks he’s been with the Springboks, you can see the confidence oozing out of the youngster and he’s learned a helluva lot. If there’s an injury, I won’t have any problems selecting him (Bosch) again.”
In-form Stormers back Dillyn Leyds has also been recalled to the Bok set-up to replace Cheetahs centre Francois Venter, while fit-again scrumhalf Ross Cronjé is back in the mix in place of Jano Vermaak.
Although Coetzee seems to have opted for continuity, he added that the squad is not set in stone.
“Dillyn Leyds is back again – the guys go back to Currie Cup and they perform, and that’s what we want to see. So once a guy’s out, it doesn’t mean he’s out of the squad completely. Things can change in a week.
“The competition (for places) is healthy at the moment, the team is in a good place.”
Meanwhile, the Boks will know the full extent of the rib injury to Coenie Oosthuizen today as the prop, who produced a Man of the Match performance in PE, underwent scans yesterday.
It is also understood that Lions prop Ruan Dreyer is likely to feature for the Golden Lions this weekend, despite being named in the Bok squad.
In terms of their preparation, Coetzee said that one of the biggest goals was to build on what they’d achieved so far in five wins in five matches.
“I feel comfortable with the preparation we’ve done. All areas of our game have improved and we’ve just got to keep up with the effort that we’ve put in, in terms of our intensity and our work rate.
“We’re looking at this as three phases and phase one has just been completed – the home and the away legs. We’re very happy with the result in Salta.”
Coetzee was also wary of an Australian side that has shown a lot of improvement since last year, which was especially evident in their 29-36 defeat to the All Blacks at the weekend.
“It’s a different beast waiting that side (Australia). It’s always tough going to Australia and (facing) the way they play; they’re reaching form as well.”The Springboks face the Wallabies in Perth on September 9 and meet the All Blacks a week later in Auckland.
Springbok squad to
Australia and New Zealand
Forwards: Uzair Cassiem (flank); Lood de Jager (lock); Ruan Dreyer (prop); Dan du Preez (No 8); Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward); Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock); Eben Etzebeth (lock); Steven Kitshoff (prop); Siya Kolisi (flank); Jaco Kriel (loose forward); Malcolm Marx (hooker); Bongi Mbonambi (hooker); Franco Mostert (lock); Tendai Mtawarira (prop); Trevor Nyakane (prop); Coenie Oosthuizen (prop); Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker)
Backs: Andries Coetzee (fullback); Ross Cronjé (scrumhalf); Damian de Allende (centre); Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf); Elton Jantjies (flyhalf); Jesse Kriel (centre); Dillyn Leyds (utility back); Rudy Paige (scrumhalf); Handré Pollard (flyhalf); Raymond Rhule (wing); Jan Serfontein (centre); Courtnall Skosan (wing)