Boks have 'class acts' that demand special attention from B&I Lions
The powerful South African forwards have been billed as the main point of difference between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions in the forthcoming three-Test series – starting in the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
However, some of the more astute members of the B&I Lions tour party are willing to acknowledge that the Boks have a few ‘special’ backline players that could also cause some serious damage.
With 11 members of the 2019 World Cup-winning team starting for the Boks in the opening match of the series, the hosts certainly have plenty of firepower.
Those players include seasoned flyhalf Handre Pollard, who will play his 50th Test on Saturday, and hot-stepping flyer Cheslin Kolbe.
B&I Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins is well aware of the threat that Pollard poses, despite his lack of game time.
Jenkins said Pollard will be a massive threat on Saturday, despite spending the better part of two weeks in COVID-19 isolation.
“He is a class act,” Jenkins said of the 27-year-old No.10, adding: “He is a world-class player.”
Pollard made his Test debut against Scotland in Port Elizabeth in June 2014 – aged just 20.
Jenkins also made reference to Pollard’s nine-month lay-off, following knee surgery in France – having made just two appearances for his French club Montpellier before going under the knife.
(Article continues below video …)
“He had some game time [16 matches] in France and also played against George [on July 2].
“I am sure he would have liked to be involved [in the SA ‘A’ team’s win over the B&I Lions] last Wednesday.
“As I said, he is a class at ct and will pick up from where he left off.
“He is a key player for South Africa and no doubt will cause us [the B&I Lions] some problems.
“He is someone we have to watch very carefully.”
The Kolbe factor is well-documented, with B&I Lions wing Anthony Watson touching on the threat the 27-year-old French-based wing poses.
Watson had a close-up view of the Bok flyer’s ability when Kolbe scored a match-sealing try in the Boks’ 32-12 win over England in Yokohama in November 2019.
“Whoever is up against Cheslin [Kolbe], will have to make sure they do their homework in order to nullify the threats he possesses,” Watson told a virtual media briefing.
“Everyone is aware of his skills and how much he can influence a game.
“You can also flip it on its head and try and look at where you can expose him on a one-to-one basis when he is defending.”
Watson said the Boks have other threats also.
“The kicking game, the importance of the kicking and aerial game, was huge in that World Cup Final and we came off second best to them,” he said of the Yokohama boilover.
“They definitely dominated us in that area, got great momentum and field position from that area and that gave them the leg up that they needed.
“Similar to the South Africa ‘A’ game [a 17-13 win for the hosts last Wednesday] as well as the World Cup Final, the start was huge.
“We didn’t put ourselves in good positions in either of those two games and found ourselves trying to claw our way back into the game which is much more difficult against a team like South Africa. Those are the two points I see.”