PARIS – Handré Pollard has looked sharp in training, and it’s time to give him an opportunity at flyhalf as well.
That was the word from Springbok coach Allister Coetzee on Thursday after he picked Pollard in the No 10 jersey for Saturday’s Test against France in Paris.
Coetzee made four changes to the starting line-up.
Duane Vermeulen comes in at No 8 and Wilco Louw at tighthead prop in two forced switches due to injuries to Pieter-Steph du Toit and Coenie Oosthuizen.
Elton Jantjies drops to the bench after starting at flyhalf in last week’s record 38-3 defeat to Ireland, as does centre Damian de Allende, with Francois Venter promoted to the starting XV.
Coetzee said Pollard’s inclusion was more a case of rotation than of dropping Jantjies.
“Handré Pollard, his inclusion this week, I think it’s the right time,” said the coach. “He’s looking sharp in training. I’m pleased with Elton’s development and his effort this year.
“He’s started off 10 Tests, but it’s time to give Handré Pollard an opportunity as well.
“It’s great to have both your 10s out there in northern-hemisphere conditions being able to manage games up here.”
Toulon loose forward Vermeulen was only called into the squad after prop Oosthuizen was diagnosed with knee ligament damage sustained in the opening minutes against Ireland that will require surgery.
Loose forward Du Toit suffered concussion and will miss the match against France, meaning Coetzee needed an experienced lineout operator.
“It’s a simple selection for me in a sense. Obviously it’s a logical one after losing Pieter-Steph du Toit, who’s a good lineout exponent.
“We do need another lineout guy to replace Pieter-Steph du Toit in that option, and Duane Vermeulen is really suiting that role perfectly.
“Also, at least there’s a specialist number eight in the team, and he brings a lot of leadership and will support (captain) Eben (Etzebeth) tremendously.”
Louw played almost the entire match against Ireland in only his second appearance for the Boks after replacing Oosthuizen and now gets the chance to start, with Trevor Nyakane coming on to the bench.
With Jan Serfontein ruled out of the Boks’ European Tour following his move from Bulls to French Top 14 outfit Montpellier, Coetzee was forced into a change of midfield combination.
Serfontein had played alongside outside centre Jesse Kriel in eight of nine Tests in 2017 before the Dublin debacle last week, when De Allende was given the nod.
“Damian, ball-in-hand he’s carried well, but what we lost in Jan is a bit extra than just carrying the ball, and I think Francois (Venter) has played consistently well for the Cheetahs this season,” said Coetzee.
“He’s that industrious, hardworking centre – that’s what we’re actually looking for from him, and his contributions not just in one department, but in all departments.”
Like South Africa, France come into this game off a heavy 38-18 loss to the All Blacks last weekend, and Coetzee believes both sides will be desperate to make amends.
The key for him is who manages to get over the gain-line.
“We’ve had a good look at the French and they’re a very, very good side,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure of the collisions – that’s the first battle, the gain-line and then set-piece.
“So, that’s what the game will be about, that dominance that should be earned on the gain-line.”
The Boks take a five-match winning run over the French into this game at the Stade de France, having not lost to their hosts since 2009.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian de Allende.