Pollard in firing line against All Blacks
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has the World Cup in mind with rotation policy that also includes Mbonambi move
Wellington — Handrè Pollard is expected to return to the Springboks’ starting line-up that will face the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium on Saturday as part of coach Rassie Erasmus’s rotation policy.
Erasmus gave the strongest indication yet that the Bulls pivot could start against the New Zealanders in the Rugby Championship showdown, with Elton Jantjies, who started in the loss to Australia at the weekend, dropping to the bench.
“This weekend we will probably go with Pollard and give Elton the last two minutes or so,” said Erasmus.
“The two guys who are going to the World Cup are Handrè and Elton. Guys like Pat Lambie, Frans Steyn and Damian Willemse might be in the mix.
“Elton has come here to New Zealand for a few Super Rugby finals with the Lions… we can’t just pick Pollard only and not give him a chance. Otherwise we will go to the World Cup with only one flyhalf who has started matches,” he said.
Erasmus added that the Boks’ rivals were giving other players in their ranks opportunities with an eye on the World Cup as it is important to go to the 2019 tournament in Japan with all the playing personnel having played competitive matches.
“Look at the flyhalf that New Zealand played last weekend against Argentina and the pack and the centres they picked,” Erasmus said.
“It is the same with Australia, who played Kurtley Beale at No10 against us and put regular Bernard Foley on the bench. It is a natural thing with about 12 Test matches away from the World Cup to build experience on key positions,” he said. “We did [the same] at hooker last weekend with Bongi Mbonambi starting ahead of Malcolm Marx.
“We know Malcolm is our number one but we had to give Bongi a start against Australia away from home so that if we get to the World Cup and we have an injury, he would have started in a pressure-game situation,” Erasmus said.
In the 23-18 defeat against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, Erasmus was criticised for replacing Mbonambi shortly after his lineout throw led to a try by Matt Toomua after 32 minutes following miscommunication with captain Siya Kolisi.
But Erasmus said he had communicated with the Boks’ fitness trainer before the mistake occurred and a decision had already been taken to replace him. The Bok coach insisted that Mbonambi was struggling with his fitness.
“After 30 minutes I went to the fitness trainer and asked how Bongi was doing and he was struggling already,” he said.
“It was after that lineout that we decided we were going to make the change … the lineout was not even his fault. It was Siya who was not at the right spot. I will never take out a player because he missed a lineout. It is a learning experience for him [Mbonambi] because he is one of the players who will go to the World Cup.
“The experience of starting matches and not always coming from the bench will help him to handle pressure in future when he finds himself in the same situation in a big game.”