Pollard is not Superman
REACTION: Veteran flyhalf Handre Pollard will feature for South Africa in the ‘must-win’ World Cup Pool B match against Tonga at Stade de Marseille next Sunday.
However, don’t expect the 29-year-old to instantly solve all of the Springboks’ headaches.
Director of Rugby Erasmus, speaking less than 24 hours after the Boks’ disheartening 8-13 loss to world No.1 Ireland in Paris at the weekend, confirmed that Pollard will feature in South Africa’s final round of pool action.
However, he vigorously cautioned against expecting too much from the 65-times capped flyhalf – who has only played 30 minutes for Leicester Tigers in a Premiership Cup (tier two) match since he injured his calf muscle back in May.
Addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ – the Boks’ sub-par and erratic goal-kicking – Erasmus put the matter into perspective.
“Handre Pollard is not Superman,” he told a media briefing.
(Continue below …_)
The national team’s poor goal-kicking has been a constant theme of media briefings this year and the Paris horror show did little to ease the pressure – as the Springboks managed a paltry 20 percent success rate off the kicking T.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok kicked a first-half penalty, but the missed a penalty and conversion in the second half.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk also failed with two penalties, one of which hit the post.
However, Pollard’s recall won’t solve all the issues.
“He [Pollard] could not come back four weeks ago when he was not ready to play,” Erasmus said.
“He only played 30 minutes of rugby.
“He doesn’t come onto the field and just do goalkicking.
“He must tackle, he must pass, he must do restarts, he must sidestep, he must hand-off and he must clean out in rucks.”
He dismissed the notion that there were ulterior motives behind the non-selection of Pollard.
(WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber talks about Manie Libbok’s goalkicking …)
“Last week was the first time he had a full week of training with us,” Erasmus said of the build-up to the Ireland face-off.
“He had full contact, where he didn’t sit out one session.
“He wasn’t up for selection last week, but we were always going to rotate the squad coming into the Tonga match.
“Pollard will definitely be up for selection for this match [against Tonga in Marseille this coming Sunday].”
Turning his attention to Libbok’s faltering goalkicking – which has dipped below 50 percent for most of the year – again came to the defence of the No.`10.
“Weighing up the different things Manie [Libbok] do, is comparable to Deon Fourie’s line-out throwing.
“He had four line-outs and just one not straight,” the SARU boss said.
“If he struggles in the line-outs, we will work on that.
“Manie [Libbok] is obviously in a bit of a slump with his goalkicking. He knows it, we know, the world knows it and everybody keeps on talking about it.
“We can’t magically say someone else must kick.
“Faf [de Klerk] is a really good goalkicker, but missed two [at the weekend], with one hitting the upright from 55 metres out.
“Handre [Pollard] is playing this weekend, but let’s see how Handre does the other stuff.
“Does he get through the game in terms of the contact? I’m sure he will also need some time to find his goal-kicking rhythm.
“The Tonga match will be a great test for him as a yardstick, to see where he is – if we qualify for the quarterfinals.”
Erasmus added that Libbok is ‘brilliant’ in general play, but his goal-kicking does not match the other aspects of his game.