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Opinion

Can the Boks do without Handre Pollard in 2020?

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13th September, 2020
22

Handre Pollard was seen falling to the ground clutching his knee in the middle of the tackle.

He had a stellar Top 14 up to that point. He is currently hospitalised with the injury and the Springbok vice-captain would probably not be available for the Rugby Championship, if it indeed commences.

With his X factor pace, power and try-scoring ability, he brings more to the game than the usual fly half.

He possesses that ambitious hunger to go for the line which makes him such a good ball carrier in contact. He has the flattest and longest pass in the world, as was evident in his World Cup campaign.

As I said in the article on his role in the Springbok team, I feel that his absence is a big hurdle in the Springbok campaign. Few players have the same gifts to play such a role for their team.

His teammates and coaches have been emphasising his integrality.

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‘He’s very physical and has a bullet of a pass. He also has good feet and has the ability to draw the defender and create the space,’ Jesse Kriel said in ‘Insight into the Influence of Handre Pollard’.

‘That makes all the difference for us on the outside. He knows what works and what wins Test matches, and he backs his teammates. In turn, we have a lot of confidence in his leadership.’

‘He’s the player who has to sum up the situation in a fraction of second and make a decision,‘ says Stick. ‘He’s got to look at the players around him and decide how he’s going to organise them and use them to the team’s benefit. It’s something he really relishes.’

His kicking puts the big shift, especially in the World Cup final. Pollard slotted six from eight shots at goal as well as two conversions, causing his 22-point haul.

For the Boks to win, the South African pack’s physicality has to be converted into points by Pollard.

He is not there this year. The question is, how will the Boks fare without their first-choice kicker?

Curwin Bosch may be a replacement, with some good ball-playing displayed in the SR, but his defensive liabilities were the reason why Coach Du Preez initially did pick his son over Bosch. Well, Bosch cannot make up for Handre’s physicality.

Same goes for Elton Janjities – strong ball playing but not that great in defence.

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Damian Willemse may be a rising star, but 64 per cent for kicking is not good enough for a Springbok flyhalf.

This leaves South Africa with one clear option – Robert Du Preez.

According to Sport 24, given the man’s size and skillset, he is theoretically a like-for-like replacement for Handre Pollard.

Apparently, he has been impressive as the second-highest points scorer so far in this year’s Premiership with 116 points. According to Sport 24, he has made 174 passes without one going awry, which is certainly quite a feat.

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To begin with, few flyhalves even throw that many in a season, and to have that count without even one going awry is extremely impressive. Such a record points to more-than-solid and perhaps spectacular distribution.

187 running metres is extremely respectable, and surpasses many others. His tackle completion of 84 per cent is also solid.

According to Opta Sports‘ stats, “the Sale Sharks flyhalf has assisted eight tries in Premiership Rugby this season, more than any other player”.

This is no small feat, considering the quality of the players in the Premiership.

While, Elton may have started when Pollard went off in the past, Rassie Erasmus had still refrained from using him in big games during the World Cup and only played him against the Tier 3 sides in their pool, not starting him against Italy. He was not even a man on the bench in other games.

Meanwhile, Du Preez seems to possess all the skills of Pollard – and he can step in at 10 in the star playmaker’s absence.

This injury is a cloud on the Boks’ campaign this year, but the sliver lining is that they can try out someone at 10.

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