The Handre Pollard injury creates a selection conundrum for Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber up to and including the planned British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa in July 2021.
Handre Pollard injury
Pollard ruptured his anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) on Friday in playing for Montpellier against Racing 92. The early word is that he would be out of the game for between six and nine months. If he is out for six months, he will miss the Springboks as yet unconfirmed participation in Rugby Championship 2020. This is proposed to go ahead in Australia in October and November. It becomes a greater issue if Pollard is out for nine months and can only return to play in June. That leaves him with precious little time to prove his fitness before the Lions arrive in South Africa.
The selection conundrum
The reality is that there is not a lot of proven depth in experience behind Pollard. Ryan Jordan takes a brief look at the possible candidates. Elton Jantjes is the obvious candidate, but it would depend on how the Springboks brains trust decides to take on the Lions. Who would act as backup to Jantjes also becomes an important discussion.
Jantjes has the inside lane for selection as the starting Springbok flyhalf. He deputized for Pollard at Rugby World Cup 2019. The likely starting scrumhalf is Faf de Klerk. The two of them have played many games together.
Steyn played a very important role off the bench for the Springboks and like Jantjes knows what the expectations are as well as the team culture and dynamics. He has all the experience in the world, but will be 34 at the time of the tour.
Teenage prodigy Goosen has been around a long time. He has a lot of experience playing in Europe, but not at Test level and has had little exposure to the current Springbok team.
Willemse needs time to settle in one position, be it fullback or flyhalf. If it is flyhalf, he does have the qualities to make a success in the position. He doesn’t have a wealth of experience and that might count against him come the Lions tour.
Rob du Preez
Du Preez has been playing regularly for Sale Sharks in the Premiership. His international experience is very limited, with only one Test cap to his name.
Bosch seems to have settled down in 2020 (during Super Rugby) getting regular game time in the flyhalf jersey after the departure of Du Preez to the Sale Sharks. He has his detractors who don’t believe in his tackling skills, but he did show a marked improvement in the now canceled 2020 Super Rugby campaign.
The final selection
Every Springbok rugby fan will have their preferred candidate at flyhalf and the Handre Pollard injury has blown the selection options wide open. Does Nienaber go for the tried and trusted, or does he go for a newbie to take the baton forward?
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