Springbok flyhalf Pollard set to play against Tonga

rugby24 September 2023 16:00| © Reuters
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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.

"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 quarterfinals, 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."


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 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."