Rugby Championship

Pollard draws Gaffie comparisons

2014-09-10 12:03
Handré Pollard (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Saturday's Rugby Championship Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Wellington could be a significant one in the career of Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard.

The 20-year-old was on Wednesday included in the Bok starting team at the expense of the experienced Morné Steyn, who seemed to pay the price for his late kicking blunder against Australia in Perth last weekend.

With the Boks down to 14-men, Steyn failed to find touch with a penalty late in the game, which saw Australia counter-attack - and score - to snatch a 24-23 win.

However, apart from his crucial error at the death, Steyn had not done much wrong. He kicked his penalty goals and played the tactical game Meyer wanted him to play.

Had he found touch with that past penalty, he would surely have played at Westpac Stadium this Saturday on the back of leading to Boks to another victory with his normally reliable kicking boot.

But the young Pollard has instead cracked the nod in what will only be his fourth Test.

And one cannot help but draw similar comparisons dating back to a certain game in Dunedin back in 1999, when a similarly inexperienced Gaffie du Toit was also thrown to the wolves along with a fellow rookie at scrumhalf, Dave von Hoesslin. The duo had a nightmare game as the All Blacks crushed the Springboks 28-0.

Coach Nick Mallett laid the blame for the loss firmly at the hands of his inexperienced halfback duo - something they struggled to overcome for the remainder of their careers.

Du Toit, who was playing his fifth Test at the time, played one more later that year (another loss to the All Blacks) but his next Test only came five years later when Jake White was coach. He would eventually only play 14 Tests.

Von Hoesslin, 24 at the time, was playing his fourth Test and his international career ended that year with a meagre five Test caps.

There's no doubt Pollard is a remarkable talent - similar to what Du Toit was back in the late 90s - but I find it rather strange that Meyer has now reverted back to the youngster in what will no doubt be South Africa's toughest Test in 2014.

Remember, Pollard was dropped from the 23-man squad for last week's match against the Wallabies after struggling the previous week when the Bok pack was dominated by Argentina.

That begs the question: Will Pollard really add anything more than Steyn would on Saturday?

At Wednesday's team announcement, Meyer was quoted as saying that Pollard "has the right skill set for how we want to approach this game".

Does this mean Meyer intends Pollard to run the ball at the All Blacks? In that case we'll see a high scoring encounter, heavily in favour of the home side.

I somehow doubt that's the route Meyer would instruct Pollard to go.

South Africa's only chance at victory on Saturday would be to play for territorial dominance through tactical kicking - something this writer feels the experience of Steyn would perhaps have better achieved.

Twenty-year-old Pollard has only played three Tests to date - one less than Du Toit had at the time of his international 'baptism'.

Let's hope Pollard doesn't end up with the same mental scars that Du Toit had to carry for the remainder of his career.

In the very likely scenario of the Springboks losing on Saturday, Meyer should at least stick with the youngster for the remainder of the competition.

Going back to Steyn the week thereafter wouldn't do much for consistency or confidence in the No 10 jumper.

Follow @Herman_Mostert on Twitter


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