‘Benched players are not scapegoats ...’
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.”