Sport

RWC 2023

Pollard joins Boks as replacement for injured Malcolm Marx

Pollard joins Boks as replacement for injured Malcolm Marx
Springbok Handre Pollard runs the ball during The Rugby Championship match against the Australian Wallabies at Adelaide Oval on 27 August 2022. (Photo: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

Handré Pollard has joined the Springbok squad for Rugby World Cup 2023 as a replacement for the injured Malcolm Marx.

The worst-kept secret at Rugby World Cup 2023 – that Handré Pollard would join the Springboks as an injury replacement in France – was confirmed on Sunday night.

Pollard, one of the stars of RWC 2019 when the Boks won the title in Japan, has been included as a replacement for hooker Malcolm Marx.

In another example of the unorthodox thinking of coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus, calling up a flyhalf for hooker initially appears like madness.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup News Hub

But RasNaber hinted that they would make this move if: a) Pollard proved his fitness in a match for Leicester on Friday night, and b) if Marco van Staden and Deon Fourie both proved their worth as hookers in the Boks’ Pool B match against Romania.

Pollard came through half a game unscathed and Fourie and Van Staden never missed a lineout between them during the 76-0 win over Romania, while both showed they can play hooker. Admittedly the standard of the opponent was questionable.

With Bongi Mbonambi now the undisputed first-choice hooker after Marx’s serious knee injury, Fourie is the accepted understudy. Van Staden will fulfil the third hooker berth.

Handre Pollard

Handre Pollard of the Springboks in action during his side‘s Rugby Championship match against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on 13 August 2022. (Photo: Anton Geyser / Gallo Images)

Pollard, who scored 22 points in the 2019 RWC final, will initially be understudy to Manie Libbok and is unlikely to feature against Ireland at Stade de France next week.

Libbok was the only recognised flyhalf in the Bok RWC 2023 squad when it was initially named and it’s understood the coaches were edgy that they were light in that position.

Damian Willemse can play 10, a role he performed well against Romania, but the Bok coaches see him as their main fullback now. Pollard offers some ease of mind to a thorny problem, especially now that they have a little more confidence in the hooker situation.

Full complement

The inclusion of Pollard, who returned to the field on Friday for English club Leicester after a calf injury ruled him out of contention for selection for the RWC squad, brings the full complement of players in the team back to 33.

Pollard spent some time in camp with the squad for their final two warm-up games against Wales and the All Blacks in August. 

Nienaber explained the decision to call up Pollard rather than a forward: “We are confident with the cover we have at hooker with Bongi Mbonambi and Deon Fourie, and Marco van Staden has been slotting in the position since our alignment camps in February; so we opted to call up Handré, who has been in our system for years and who was a member of our team in 2019 when we won the World Cup.

“He’s been working hard to return to full fitness, and we are pleased that he now has some game time under his belt for his club, and this will allow him to slot back into the team.

“We’ll work closely with him in the next week to get him back up to speed and back into the full swing of things, and we have no doubt he’ll step up to the challenge. He’s been here before so he knows the physical and mental demands of the World Cup.”

The Springboks will make the journey from Bordeaux to Paris on Monday where they will begin their preparations for Saturday’s round-three RWC clash against Ireland. DM

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  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    I know we need a better goalkicker than Manie is delivering at the moment, but I really fear that we’ll see a reversion to the kicking game of 2019, just at a time that we’re looking the business, ball in hand. With a likely 9-12 axis of Faf, Pollard and de Allende, our outside backs will be condemned to defence and chasing bombs again. That main photo of Pollard running the ball is a rare gem indeed! Photoshopped?

    • Cedric Buffler says:

      You may be overlooking the fact that there is no suggestion that Handre will be first choice. Manie had cemented his place there.
      Imagine a scenario where boks are 2 points behind with 5 minutes to play. Perfect time to bring on Pollard in case there’s a penalty.

  • mcnaughton.ca says:

    Question is, if they were to seriously consider bringing Pollard into the match 23, where would he fit in?

    Assuming you keep the momentum of Libbok at 10 (which makes sense) – it then seems Willie will lose out on the bench?

    Unless of course Nienaber considers a 5/3 split on the bench and not the 6/2 split we have become accustomed to.

    • Steve Davidson says:

      Don’t forget Morne Steyn coming off the bench at Loftus and kicking the winning penalty against the 2009 Lions. Pollard could do the same if required, but I’m not sure how good a hooker he is…

  • Looks like they realise we will not win the world cup if we cannot kick any points and our current kickers are not consistent enough for that. when games our tight we need to be able to have a class poll kicker. May be Pollard will be that man.

  • Graham Brown says:

    What about if they keep Libbok at flyhalf where he is doing a stirling job of igniting the backline, and use Pollard at centre (probably for Kriel) where he has played before?

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