CAPE TOWN – With Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am ruled out with injuries, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has to pick a new centre pair for Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth.
Jesse Kriel is the favourite to wear the No 13 jersey vacated by Am, but it is not as clear-cut at inside centre.
Andre Esterhuizen is a specialist No 12, but Handre Pollard finished the enthralling 36-34 victory over the All Blacks in Wellington in that position after De Allende sustained a shoulder injury, with Elton Jantjies coming on at flyhalf.
Erasmus will reveal his match-23 on Thursday at 1.30pm, but we evaluated the pros and cons of fielding Jantjies at No 10 and Pollard at No 12…
1 Two playmakers on the field
If one of Jantjies or Pollard are stuck in a ruck, the Boks won’t need to worry as there is another decision-maker available. It would also benefit the team from set-phases, especially scrums, as Jantjies can line up on one side and Pollard on the other to confuse the defence.
2 Left and right boots
Whether in a difficult situation inside their own 22 or wanting to use a different angle on a tactical kick, the left and right combination can be a boon for the Boks if used smartly.
Those cross-kicks to the wings should also be more accurate if Pollard kicks to the right touchline and Jantjies to the left.
3 Skill of Jantjies and physicality of Pollard
Jantjies varies his play more than Pollard, and has the little nuances of a chip over the top, a cross-kick or a long pass in front of the defence – as he showed in putting Frans Malherbe into a gap in Wellington, and then finding Warren Whiteley to set up Aphiwe Dyantyi’s second try.
1 Who is in charge?
A flyhalf is the man who calls the shots. But if you have two of them, who is running the show?
Earlier in the season, Erasmus kept on employing fullback Willie le Roux as a “second flyhalf” as he often came in at first receiver, especially when Jantjies was playing.
If Jantjies is at No 10 at the Nelson Mandela Bay, he needs to be given the reins.
2 Pollard’s lack of experience at centre
Yes, he played at No 12 at Under-20 level and even for the Bulls on occasion, but he is an out-and-out flyhalf.
He did well when operating at inside centre for the last 32 minutes of the Wellington Test, but starting in the position is very different, especially with the technicalities of the midfield on attack and defence.
You might think that it’s an advantage to have two recognised goal-kickers in Jantjies and Pollard, but who should take the kicks from the start?
And will that player feel extra pressure, knowing that if he misses a few shots at goal, there’s an alternative option immediately available?