Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard will be playing his 50th Test match on Saturday against the British and Irish Lions. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard will be playing his 50th Test match on Saturday against the British and Irish Lions. Picture: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

’Not the right time’ for Springboks to employ 6-2 split on the bench

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Jul 20, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Given the lack of game time the Springboks have had recently, experience was an important factor in selecting his team to take on the British & Irish Lions in their Series-opener at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, head coach Jacques Nienaber says.

The Boks had two games scheduled against Georgia as a precursor to the three-Test Series, but due to positive Covid results returned in both camps, only the first Test in Pretoria went ahead.

ALSO READ: Siya Kolisi to captain Springboks, Makazole Mapimpi also cleared to face Lions

That was the Springboks’ first Test in exactly 20 months since winning the World Cup in Japan on November 2. After that, a South Africa ‘A’ side comprised of the available Bok players beat the Lions 17-13 at Cape Town Stadium.

While director of rugby Rassie Erasmus unequivocally stated that they wanted another match against the Lions (as opposed to having the Stormers play face the Lions in a friendly) to help them get some much-needed game time under the belt ahead of the Series, the SA ‘A’ team ended up facing the Bulls at the weekend in a game they lost 14-17.

Speaking during the team announcement press conference on Tuesday, Nienaber explained his selections.

ALSO READ: Handre Pollard ahead of 50th Test cap: Different vibe, tension in Bok team room for first Lions clash

“The majority of the squad has been with us since 2018, with the Rugby Championship and of course the World Cup. We have had limited game time, so selecting players that have been part of the system for a while is very important.”

Siya Kolisi, who went to see a specialist along with Makazole Mapimpi on Monday to be cleared for the game, has been passed fit to play after spending two weeks in isolation in Joburg. Mapimpi will also make his return to the Bok team.

“Siya is a player that we have been working with for quite some time. He knows our structures and he knows what we want to do. Also, he has been our captain. So, we are very happy to have him back.”

Notably, the Boks have gone with a six-two split for the clash as opposed to their tried-and-trusted five-three split in favour of the forwards.

ALSO READ: Blitzboks star Kwagga Smith’s skills could come in handy against the British and Irish Lions

Nienaber explained that they just didn’t think it the right time to put pressure on their backs and stretch them in such a big game – especially considering that some of them have also been affected by Covid and the lack of team training some of them have enjoyed recently.

“Handre (Pollard) hasn’t been involved in a lot of rugby and we will obviously go with a six-two split if we’re confident, so we just thought it’s probably not the right time to go with just two backs on the bench.”

The match kicks off at 6pm on Saturday.

Springboks

15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Handre Pollard (vice-captain) 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Kwagga Smith 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Frans Malherbe 19 Lood de Jager 20 Rynhardt Elstadt 21 Herschel Jantjies 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Damian Willemse.

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