Pollard gets a chance to remind SA what he’s got
IT’S BEEN a year and seven months since Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard last played international rugby and tomorrow night’s game against the French Barbarians at Orlando Stadium will mark his return in an effort to reclaim his place in the Springbok team.
The 23-year-old Pollard will be afforded a cameo appearance for the SA ‘A’ side off the bench after having last played for the Springboks at the 2015 Rugby World Cup but Pollard will have to play himself back into the reckoning after Springbok incumbent Elton Jantjies’ stellar performances against France in the last two Tests.
While Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is eager to build up his flyhalf reserves, SA ‘A’ coach Johan Ackermann said the most important aspect of Pollard’s return from injury will be to measure his sharpness against international opposition. Pollard’s absence last year and for some parts of this year’s Super Rugby campaign for the Bulls due to injuries, has left the Springboks thin at pivot with Patrick Lambie also suffering long term injuries.
“I’ve got that freedom to decide how long we need him to play,” said Ackermann of Pollard’s participation tomorrow night.
“We’ll obviously give Fred (Zeilinga) a fair opportunity, he was patient last week and only got 20 minutes. The whole idea from Allister and Saru’s side is to see where Handre is.
“I don’t think it is about the amount of time but rather about getting him back onto the field and testing him against international opposition.
“I also want to be fair to him and I can’t see him getting less than 20 minutes.”
Along with the change at flyhalf, where Southern Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje finds himself out of the matchday 23 after starting last week, Ackermann has made wholesale changes to his team in order to give all his squad members a fair run.
Francois Venter will lead the team and will form a new midfield pairing with Springbok centre Lionel Mapoe, while Ackermann has picked an exciting back three with Warrick Gelant starting at fullback and speedsters Lwazi Mvovo and Seabelo Senatla on the wings.
Ackermann has also had to play musical chairs with his pack of forwards and has gone for the exciting loose-trio combination of Andisa Ntsila, Chris Cloete and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Ruan Botha will form a formidable second row partnership with Bulls lock Jason Jenkins, while Ackermann has chosen a powerful frontrow that includes Test capped Trevor Nyakane at tighthead, hooker Ramone Samuels and the exciting Ox Nche at loosehead prop.
“My commitment to the players was that everyone will play and every guy will rotate ... It is still a quality team and hopefully with changes it brings excitement because there are players looking forward to running out in the starting 15,” Ackermann said.
SOUTH AFRICA ‘A’: Warrick Gelant, Lwazi Mvovo, Lionel Mapoe, Francois Venter (capt), Seabelo Senatla, Fred Zeilinga, Dewaldt Duvenage, Andisa Ntsila, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Chris Cloete, Ruan Botha, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Ramone Samuels, Ox Nche; REPLACEMENTS: Franco Marais, Thomas du Toit, Wilco Louw, Uzair Cassiem, Ruan Ackermann, Jano Vermaak, Handre Pollard, Juan de Jongh