Springbok flyhalf Pollard set to play against Tonga
There will be no panic in the South Africa camp in the wake of their 13-8 loss to Ireland in a bruising Rugby World Cup Pool B clash in Paris on Saturday, but there is a tough choice to be made around the flyhalf berth for the rest of the tournament.
Ireland deserved their victory with some heroic defence, breakdown dominance and the ability to take their chances, while South Africa were inaccurate in the opposition 22 and off the kicking tee, missing three penalties and a conversion. Those 11 wasted points laid bare the headache facing the coaches, who must now choose between the dynamism with ball in hand of incumbent Manie Libbok, or the accuracy off the kicking tee of Handre Pollard, who has returned from a calf injury but does not offer the same skills in attack.
Tough decision for the coaches
“Handre will play this weekend (against Tonga in Marseille next Sunday), but let’s see how he does the other stuff in the game,” South Africa’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus told reporters on Sunday.
“Does he get through it on the contact side of things? I am sure he’ll also take some time to find his rhythm with his kicking under pressure.
“The Tonga game will be a great test for him as a yardstick to see where he is before we go, if we go, into those quarter-finals, and who will be on the field.
“Manie is certainly playing brilliant flyhalf rugby at the moment, but his goal-kicking is not matching that.”
Possibility of returning to the 2019 World Cup formula
Pollard’s inclusion could herald a return to the formula for their 2019 World Cup success, squeezing penalties out of teams with forward muscle and building scoreboard pressure through kicks at goal. But Erasmus insists they will not continue to select him unless they are certain he can bring an all-round game.
Handre’s road to recovery
“Handre is not Superman,” Erasmus said. “Four weeks ago he was totally not ready to play rugby. He has only played 40 minutes of rugby (since).
“He can’t just come on the field and do goal-kicking. He must tackle, pass, do kick-offs, sidestep, do hand-offs and clean out at the rucks.”
The decision around the flyhalf position for the South Africa rugby team is a tough one. The team suffered a loss to Ireland, primarily due to their inaccuracy in the opposition 22 and off the kicking tee. Handre Pollard, who has returned from injury, offers accuracy off the kicking tee but lacks the skills in attack. On the other hand, Manie Libbok showcases dynamism with the ball in hand but struggles with goal-kicking.
The upcoming match against Tonga will serve as a test for Pollard, allowing the coaches to gauge his performance and determine if he is ready to contribute to the team’s all-round game. Pollard’s inclusion may signal a return to the formula that led to South Africa’s success in the 2019 World Cup, utilizing forward muscle to draw penalties and building scoreboard pressure through kicks at goal.
Ultimately, the coaches will need to carefully weigh the strengths and weaknesses of both players before making their decision. The goal is to select a flyhalf who can contribute effectively to all aspects of the game, including tackling, passing, kick-offs, sidestepping, hand-offs, and cleaning out at the rucks.