‘Benched play­ers are not scape­goats ...’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ASHFAK MO­HAMED

HAN­DRÉ Pol­lard can feel quite up­set after be­ing rel­e­gated to the Spring­bok bench for Satur­day’s Test against Eng­land, but coach Heyneke Meyer was adamant yes­ter­day that the five play­ers who had to re­lin­quish their po­si­tions were not “scape­goats” for the Ir­ish de­feat.

The Bok boss in­sisted that the decision to hand Pa­trick Lam­bie the No 10 jersey ahead of Pol­lard, as well as bring in JP Pi­etersen, Cobus Reinach, Schalk Burger and Adriaan Strauss into the start­ing line-up were pre-planned moves that had been dis­cussed with the play­ers be­fore­hand.

Pol­lard, Cor­nal Hen­dricks, Fran­cois Hougaard, Teboho Mo­hoje and Bis­marck du Plessis all move down to the re­serves.

Meyer ex­plained that he al­ways thought of pick­ing more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers to face Eng­land at Twick­en­ham.

But one would’ve thought that some­one like Pol­lard would ben­e­fit from play­ing in such a caul­dron, es­pe­cially as he has shown tremen­dous prom­ise and will be a “world star”, ac­cord­ing to Meyer. While it is true that Lam­bie has a more ac­com­plished tac­ti­cal kick­ing game, and per­haps greater goal­kick­ing ac­cu­racy, the 20-year-old Pol­lard has the X-fac­tor to break open de­fences with his pass­ing and run­ning game, and has a mas­sive boot too. And he is a pow­er­ful de­fender.

“Han­dré only turned 20 this year. So, he is go­ing to make mis­takes. He prob­a­bly is close to the best at­tack­ing 10 in the world, but he has to de­velop his own game,” Meyer said yes­ter­day.

“I am al­ways go­ing to give him chances up un­til the World Cup, and pull him back and then give more chances. But Pa­trick is more ex­pe­ri­enced and we al­ways knew that it was go­ing to be a tough game against Eng­land, and Pa­trick has played there.

“What is tough on Han­dré is that with Cobus there, and Hougi hasn’t started a lot of games, Jan (Ser­fontein) is on his inside and has turned only 21 this year. So those are three very in­ex­pe­ri­enced guys next to each other. So, you just want Pa­trick there with a lit­tle bit more ex­pe­ri­ence and JP comes in and is more ex­pe­ri­enced.

“I had a one-on-one with Han­dré and I have to say that he hasn’t been dropped. Pa­trick knew that he was go­ing to play this game be­fore, and he knows where he stands, and Han­dré will start again in fu­ture. He is a fu­ture star and we will bring him slowly into the sys­tem, like we’ve done.”

Meyer said that he wanted to gauge the form of the five new starters ahead of the World Cup, but will give the oth­ers fur­ther chances to play on this tour, with two more Tests (Italy and Wales) to be played after Satur­day.

“I just want to say on the record that guys who know me know that I never make a lot of changes after we’ve lost.

“I usu­ally plan in ad­vance, so don’t say that those guys (who are out) are the scape­goats, please. I want to put that on record,” he said.

“Usu­ally when we don’t play well and lose a game, we try and keep the same team so that we can go and fix it. That is why I kept the same 23. I spoke to the guys and they know ex­actly when they are go­ing to start, and that they are go­ing to start the next game.”

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