JOHANNESBURG - Handre Pollard will be considered as a flyhalf only on the Springboks’ end-of-year tour.
The Bulls man who has struggled with injuries in the last two years, but returned to action during the Rugby Championship, is set to feature prominently in Europe in the next four weeks according to Bok coach Allister Coetzee. But Pollard will not be among the men the coach considers to fill the vital inside centre role vacated by the unavailable Jan Serfontein.
“Handre won’t be considered ahead of the others yet,” insisted Coetzee ahead of the team’s departure to Dublin later this week. The Boks kick off their four-match tour against Ireland next Saturday and follow that up with clashes against France, Italy and Wales.
“I don’t want Handre to have any extra responsibilities. I want him to manage the team at (No) 10, to take charge there, and then there’s his goal-kicking he has to concentrate on. He’s also got a big leadership role at 10, like Elton (Jantjies) has as well, so I’m definitely not thinking about him as a 12 yet.”
Pollard then will go head to head with Jantjies for the No 10 jersey, with Curwin Bosch their back-up, and one of Damian de Allende, Francois Venter and Lukhanyo Am set to take up the inside centre role.
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Coetzee stated that he is impressed by all three candidates, who he believes can flourish in the position because they are all “industrious centres” like Serfontein, and unlike Lions star Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who missed out on selection for the tour group.
“I want a like-for-like replacement at (No) 12, an industrious centre, what Jan brought to the team” said Coetzee. “The guy coming in mustn’t only get momentum for us, but he must have a high work rate, he must chase back, make his tackles and be part of the counter-attack it’s about double, triple actions; that’s what I want in a 12, what Jan gave us.”
Coetzee said the Cheetahs’ Venter is such an “industrious” centre, perhaps making him the favourite for the man to partner Jesse Kriel next weekend but he was also full of praise for newcomer Am and seemingly perennial bench-sitter De Allende.
“Lukhanyo is a clever defender at (No) 13, he’s a good communicator and he can steal ball on the ground and turn it over,” enthused Coetzee. “He’s a good decision-maker and the fact that he has also played at 12 recently is another plus for him he can truck the ball, be straight and direct and he can take on the gain line but he can also be a distributor and decision-maker. He’s a versatile player.”
Coetzee though said the man who would ultimately be picked to play at No 12 on tour would be someone who was confident of standing tall in the position. “The big thing for me about Jan is that he was playing with confidence, from June through to the Rugby Championship. All these guys we have here as options know the position, but do they have the necessary confidence a guy like Damian hasn’t had a lot of time to gain in confidence, but I know him and he’s a quality player," he said.
“Francois Venter is a guy who’s playing with confidence at the Cheetahs and similarly Lukhanyo can play (No) 12 and 13.”