Rugby Championship

Pollard key for RWC - Meyer

2014-09-11 06:55
Handre Pollard (Gallo Images)

Wellington - Jean de Villiers may be celebrating his 100th Test match but all eyes will be on the performance of young flyhalf Handre Pollard when South Africa face New Zealand in the fourth round of the Rugby Championship on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Pollard was surprisingly named to start the match in place of the more experienced Morne Steyn, who piloted the side last week in Perth where a late yellow card opened the door for Australia to sneak a 24-23 victory.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, however, has always had his eyes on next year's World Cup and the chance to throw Pollard in against the All Blacks on Saturday (kick-off 09:35 SA time) will give him an opportunity to see how far he needs to develop before the global showpiece.

"I have a lot of confidence in Handre and I want to see what he can do at the highest level," Meyer told reporters.

"He's a guy who I believe could play in the World Cup and play a huge part in the World Cup.

"He's a different type of player, but you have to do something different if you want to beat New Zealand.

"We want to evolve and play some attractive rugby, so hopefully it's a dry field and we can play some attacking rugby."

Attacking rugby is something the Springboks have developed under Meyer, who finally recognised that it was no use having a massive pack to continually bludgeon opposition into submission if the backs did not get the opportunity to use the ball they secured.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is well aware of the threat an attack-minded Springboks team would pose, having watched them throw caution to the wind in Johannesburg last year.

The All Blacks won the match 38-27 to clinch the Rugby Championship, but many pundits afterwards marvelled at the pace and intensity of the game, suggesting it was the best Test ever played.

"They were pretty good at it last year," Hansen said. "They almost beat us doing it last year and he has picked a side that looks like it wants to play."

Hansen said he expected the selection of Pollard would create greater opportunities for the Springboks and challenge the inside channels in the All Blacks defensive line.

Pollard's lack of experience - he has played just three Tests - would not be an issue, he thought.

"I remember when Dan Carter didn't have any Test caps and I was coaching Wales. And he smashed us," a laconic Hansen said of the 2003 clash in Hamilton where the All Blacks won 55-3 and Carter scored 20 points.

"So how many Test caps you have, I guess it's relevant when it comes to experience, but if you have the ability to play the game then that eases that away too."

Flyhalf Aaron Cruden was one of three changes Hansen made to his side who beat the Pumas 28-9 in Napier last week after Beauden Barrett, who is of similar size to the 1.88m-tall Pollard, impressed in his first start at flyhalf.

Lock Jeremy Thrush also gets his opportunity to push for a more permanent role after he impressed as a replacement for the injured Sam Whitelock last week, while blindside flank Steven Luatua has improved his fitness after being publicly criticised by Hansen earlier this season.


New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Cory Jane

South Africa:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Damian de Allende

Referee: Jerome Garces (France)


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