Cape Town – Dropping Handre Pollard now would be a knee-jerk
response by the Springboks, following their laboured 13-6 Castle Rugby
Championship victory over Argentina in the Loftus slush.
Calculating, conscientious coach Heyneke Meyer, to his
credit, generally steers clear of acting in that fashion: he was refreshingly
brave in preferring him to the experienced Morne Steyn for the Pretoria match,
and should not depart from his clearly longer-term, World Cup 2015-aimed vision
at this juncture as the Boks brace themselves for the swift return against the
Pumas in Salta on Saturday (21:40 SA time).
A vote of confidence would be a far better way to make the
20-year-old feel secure, feel part of the furniture, than to ditch him after two
games --- one very promising (Scotland) and one slightly ropey (the Argentina
On Saturday, the rookie was caught as off-guard as anyone in
the South African squad and management by the rare, unanticipated August
Useful lessons can be banked, all-round, and the Boks move
on ... without any major need, I suggest, to shake the selection bag.
Pollard either dropped, fumbled or slice-kicked the cake of
soap otherwise labelled a rugby ball a couple of times during the Loftus
tempest; so did many more seasoned characters in the home ranks as a Pumas XV
not under-stocked with Euro-based personnel took massive heart from the
levelling environment suddenly before them.
And yes, when the now 57-cap Steyn was sensibly enough
introduced to the necessary dogfight on 46 minutes, he brought superior
composure and general game-management under the circumstances (we gave him 6.5
out of 10 on the Sport24 performance card to Pollard’s 5.5, so don’t be too
quick to call us Pollard-obsessed).
But it does happen – all the time, actually – that substitutes
bring timely, often better value than the players they replace, and it doesn’t
automatically mean you swap spots in the pecking order a few days onward as a
That can cause unnecessary instability, and self-doubt.
Pollard warrants another crack as top dog in the flyhalf
channel, not least because the Boks, while suitably wary of putting the cart
before the horse, are likely to take to the grass at Salta especially keen to
strike for a four-try bonus point if it looks feasible, after plans to bag it
were thwarted at Loftus.
They had to cobble together a not especially convincing,
eleventh-hour Plan B in Pretoria; a likely return to more adventure-minded Plan
A would suit Pollard’s known strengths.
Here’s something else to chew on: with Argentina chuffed by
their securing of a losing bonus point in South Africa and likely to have
plenty of fire in their bellies for the revenge quest on more familiar terrain,
they will throw their bodies at the task with special, perhaps often frenzied
Flyhalf is a channel where, more than many others, stout
defence can be required when the heat is on, and Pollard has the bodily
strength and tackling conviction to repel raiders there better than Steyn
No, the Boks should give another chance to their Pretoria
template at No 10, with Pollard starting and the experienced Steyn a comforting
bench presence, capable of good game time if things are going to stay tight and
a wise, more conservative old brain is required to make the difference in a
Personally, I still fancy South Africa are capable of
putting game two against the Pumas to bed with some degree of ease, and
primarily because of the superiority of their attacking play. And that’s where
Pollard would be tasked with coming well into his own.
Meyer picked the
Paarl Gym product as his starter at pivot for well-intended reasons last
weekend. He should do so again, in anticipation that those reasons will kick in
... or rather be allowed to kick in as meteorological lightning, as it were,
doesn’t strike twice.
Psst, the long-range forecast for Salta on Saturday is quite
stubbornly fine, whilst Wikipedia trumpets that the city in the foothills of
the Andes is “famous for having very pleasant weather”.
Loftus was a minor hiccup in his development, but it’s still
Pollard for me.
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing