Johannesburg - A month ago, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was having sleepless nights over a lack of fit and in form flyhalves at his disposal, and he says that has even considered Cheslin Kolbe as a stop-gap solution.
Nienaber’s World Cup-winning flyhalf, Handre Pollard, has suffered a string of injuries and only this last weekend did he make a comeback when he played 20 minutes off the bench for Montpellier against Harlequins in the European Challenge Cup.
Pollard’s backup, Elton Jantjies, injured his shoulder seriously in Japan and has been back in South Africa for surgery.
“It was quite a shock when I thought about it a month ago that if we would have to play a Test match, both our regular players were injured,” Nienaber told media on Sunday in an online briefing.
“Thankfully Handre is playing again while Elton he is going to be here at the alignment camp along with Malcolm Marx, who is also doing his rehabilitation from an injury in Japan.
“We will wait for Elton to get the specialist’s all-clear in the next week or two and then he is likely to return to his club in Japan - they are in a promotion-relegation battle and I’m sure he would want to add value to them and have a couple of games in Japan.”
But if Pollard and Jantjies fall by the wayside again, Nienaber says he has other options for the three-Test tour by Wales in June.
He said he would consider Kolbe who has played in the position for Toulouse; Damian Willemse; or Frans Steyn, while Nienaber says that South Africa’s URC flyhalves are also putting their hands up of late.
Looking ahead to the World Cup, Nienaber says he is looking at Johan Goosen, who is still recovering from a knee operation.
“It is why last year our thoughts were on getting an experienced head in the squad like Morne Steyn. Remember, we have Frans Steyn who can play there, Gaza (Damian Willemse); and Cheslin put in some excellent performances for Toulouse last year before he went to Toulon, where he played for Toulouse at flyhalf.
“So, there are third-choice options that we can use within the squad. But that’s also why it’s important to have a look at a guy like Johan Goosen. It would be nice to know where he is at and if he still wants to play for the Springboks.”
Nienaber said he worried about the local options in the United Rugby Championship (URC) back in February but Manie Libbok, Curwin Bosch, Chris Smith and youngster Jordan Hendrikse have played well lately.
“Then if you look at the URC and the quality of flyhalves, especially this last Saturday — I thought there were some excellent performances. Some of them are performing at the best levels that they have been in quite some time.
“I have to be quite honest, in January and February, I was quite worried in terms of our depth at flyhalf. I was sitting there and wanting someone to stick up their hand. Now, if I look at Saturday’s performances and there were four hands raised, saying we are ready to go.”