The reintroduction of Handré Pollard into the starting XV of the Springboks for their Rugby World Cup clash versus Tonga this weekend will surely have many pundits and supporters crooning happily.
Pollard has become something of the golden boy of South African rugby, compounded by the kicking woes suffered by Manie Libbok in recent matches. There is no getting around the fact that Libbok’s kicking at poles has been woefully short of the required standard.
Indeed, according to Ultimate Rugby, it stands at a distressing 38% in France.
To be considered a sure bet in that department, a Test match kicker’s accuracy should be at least over 75%, preferably over the 80%.
Libbok’s inability to slot over crucial points certainly played a major role in the most recent loss to Ireland but he shouldn’t carry the burden of fault alone.
Faf de Klerk was also wayward, while the tactics employed by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber were questionable at best during the Irish clash.
Pollard and Libbok are different players – the one is more attacking than the other, while defensively Pollard is arguably better – but both will have a major part to play in the coming weeks.
The Boks look better balanced when employing a 5-3 split with both Pollard and Libbok in play, and the national team’s think tank will have to consider their options carefully in the coming weeks when they select their matchday 23.
Libbok has had some fantastic moments in the green and gold thus far, and we still believe he will have an impact on the tournament. He is a confident player, and has proven he has the mental fortitude to bounce back from any set-back.
He will need to rely on that characteristic in the coming days, especially if Pollard has a good outing on Sunday.
As for Pollard, much now rests on his experienced shoulders.
The expectation is that he will lead the Boks deep into the World Cup, as he did in 2019. For a player that has played no Test rugby this season, it might be a bridge too far, and Bok fans should temper their expectations regarding his return, regardless of how exceptional a player he is.