Springboks go for Handre Pollard’s accurate goal-kicking over Manie Libbok’s creativity

Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard kicks a penalty during the 2023 Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks. Picture: Antonin Thuillier / AFP

Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard kicks a penalty during the 2023 Rugby World Cup final against the All Blacks. Picture: Antonin Thuillier / AFP

Published Jul 2, 2024


Handre Pollard was given the key flyhalf role when the Springboks named an experienced team on Tuesday to face Ireland in the first match of a two-Test series in Pretoria on Saturday.

There had been speculation that the more creative but inconsistent goal-kicker Manie Libbok might get the nod for the highly anticipated clash of the top-ranked teams.

But coach Rassie Erasmus kept faith in Pollard, whose 100% goal-kicking record played a crucial role in the Springboks winning back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles last October.

Pollard did not make the initial 2023 World Cup squad for France due to injury but came in during the tournament as a replacement after hooker Malcolm Marx was ruled out.

The goal-kicking of the Leicester flyhalf proved crucial in France as South Africa edged France, England and New Zealand in the knockout rounds to retain the title.

Libbok did not even make the bench with South Africa opting for a 6-2 forwards-backs split with Grant Williams and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu covering all the backline positions.

Pollard is one of 12 starters from the 2023 World Cup final against the All Blacks who will start against Ireland before a sell-out 52,000 crowd at Loftus Versfeld stadium.

Injuries have sidelined fullback Damian Willemse and prop Steven Kitshoff and back-rower Duane Vermeulen retired after helping the Springboks win back-to-back World Cup finals.

Veteran Willie le Roux replaces Willemse, Ox Nche takes over from Kitshoff and Kwagga Smith comes in for Vermeulen.

Le Roux, Nche and Smith all came off the bench in the 2023 World Cup final, won 12-11 by South Africa against 14-man New Zealand at the Stade de France.

'Fortunate position'

"We are blessed to have a lot of depth in our squad, and we are in a fortunate position to have several Rugby World Cup winners in our ranks," said Eramus.

"They know what it takes to perform at the highest level and play against the best teams in the world.

"The fact that most of these guys have played together is a bonus for us, and most of them have faced Ireland before so they are well aware of the challenge that lies ahead."

Ireland have been a bogey team for South Africa, winning the last three Tests between them, including a 13-8 victory in a 2023 World Cup pool match.

— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) June 29, 2024

Only three of the 23 chosen to tackle Ireland -- utility back Feinberg-Mngomezulu, prop Gerhard Steenekamp and lock Salmaan Moerat - were not part of the 2023 World Cup squad.

Feinberg-Mngomezulu was capped for the first time in a warm-up win over Wales at Twickenham last month, and former Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber has called him "a brilliant player".

The biggest surprise among the replacements was the choice of loose-head prop Steenekamp with Trevor Nyakane or Thomas du Toit expected to get the nod.

Coach Andy Farrell will name the Ireland matchday 23 on Thursday.

Springboks for Ireland:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard, Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.