Springbok coach Jacques Nienbaber quashed conspiracy theories about his four scrumhalves and Handré Pollard, saying there are no plans for one of them to ‘become injured’ to accommodate the flyhalf.
The nuclear fallout on social media around the Springboks’ 33-man squad going to the Rugby World Cup in France didn’t go unnoticed in the national camp.
And although Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is not on social media, he’s been informed about the “meltdown” of selecting four scrumhalves, two hookers and only one recognised flyhalf for the tournament, and including the injured Handré Pollard on his stand-by list.
The Springboks left for their Rugby World Cup mission on Saturday, and will play warm-up matches against Wales (Cardiff, next Saturday) and New Zealand (Twickenham, August 25) before heading to France to defend their title.
The Boks’ first World Cup match is on September 10 against Scotland in Marseille.
Nienbaber quashed the conspiracy theories about the scrumhalves and Pollard, saying there are no plans for one of them to “become injured” so that the Leicester flyhalf can be called up as a replacement in the tournament.
“How can you pick a guy in the World Cup squad, if you have a heart, and tell him to fake an injury because we want to get another guy in? I mean, that’s mad. We will never do that,” Nienaber said.
“There are lots of rumours flying around the squad and the injured players, and that we have this plot that we take four nines, and we will get Handré in. If there are no injuries, this whole 33 (the original squad) will come back.
“But history tells you we normally lose a player or two through injury.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 8, 2023
The Springboks have until August 21 to submit their final World Cup squad to World Rugby.
They play Wales on Saturday, and should all players come through that game unscathed, the original squad will be submitted to World Rugby.
Nienaber said they will choose a backline player to replace an injured forward if it happens in the lock or loose forward positions.
The Springboks are blessed with loose forwards who can double down in the second row and locks to cover the loose trio.
“If we lose a prop now, we won’t bring a back in. That would be suicide because we only have five props. If we lose a hooker, we won’t bring a back in because we only have three hookers. That would be suicidal,” Nienaber said.
“But when we lose a loose forward or a lock, we might because we have five locks. There are options. We feel there is versatility in the locks and loose forward division, so we can bring in a back.
“If a guy rolls his ankle – Cheslin (Kolbe) got injured in the quarter-final in 2019 – we didn’t exclude him then because his prognosis was that he will be ready in the next game.
“But if a guy sustains an injury – let’s say he will be out 28 days – then you must make a tough call.
“If it is at the beginning of the World Cup, you can maybe say ‘Let’s keep this guy’, but that is a tough decision you have to make.”
Nienaber said if they did not pick up the injuries to Pollard, centre Lukhanyo Am and lock Lood de Jager, he would’ve probably opted for an 18-15 split in the squad in favour of the forwards.
Currently, the Boks have 19 forwards and 14 backs.