JOHANNESBURG – SA ‘A’ coach Johan Ackermann is faced with a pleasant selection headache ahead of his side’s second clash against the French Barbarians at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Friday night.
Ackermann has riches, especially with a handful of Test capped players at his disposal as they look to seal a comprehensive 2-0 series win against the French.
With Lionel Mapoe and Francois Venter released from the Springbok squad, Ackermann will have to find a balance in using the experience at his disposal with the good form that captain Juan de Jongh and Harold Vorster showed in last week’s win in Durban.
While Mapoe featured prominently for the Springboks in their win against France, he will only have two training sessions with the side before Friday’s match, while Venter could be in serious contention to start after coming off the bench last week.
Another selection poser for Ackermann will come at flyhalf, where he will be under pressure to give returning Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard some game time but it will be another difficult decision for the SA 'A' coach to make with Lionel Cronje and Fred Zeilinga in the best form of their careers.
However, the call to play Pollard – even if it is off the bench – would have come from Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, who is eager to bolster his No 10 stocks with Elton Jantjies the only recognised pivot in the side.
Pollard has recovered from an ankle injury suffered during the Bulls’ Super Rugby campaign after missing out the whole of last year due to shoulder and knee injuries.
The former World Junior Player of the Year, Pollard, made a cameo appearance for the Blue Bulls in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge last weekend and has been roped into the SA ‘A’ squad this week at the insistence of Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
“I’ve always said that it is an extension of the big group and I won’t go outside of the group," Coetzee explained.
"You go through the SA ‘A’ before getting back into the Springbok side and that’s why a guy like (Pollard) has joined the team this week. I have spoken to (Ackermann) to make sure that we get what we would like to see by encouraging and giving certain players game time there and see how they perform.
"The important thing is to make sure that we come away with two wins over the French this weekend,” Coetzee concluded.