Jantjies or Pollard to start against Ireland?

2017-10-10 10:03
Handre Pollard (Gallo)

Cape Town - When the Springboks head up north on their end-of-year tour next month, coach Allister Coetzee will have to make a big decision in terms of who his flyhalf will be against Ireland on November 11. 

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The eccentric Elton Jantjies has had the No 10 jersey all to himself this year, starting every one of the nine Tests the Boks have played in so far. 

In that time, he has been largely impressive. 

He was fantastic in the 3-0 series win over France in June and then put in polished displays in the two wins over Argentina in the Rugby Championship. 

His defence was improved, his place kicking was on song and he looked to be finally acclimatising to the unique demands of Test match rugby. 

But, at the back end of the Rugby Championship, Jantjies has come in for some stick, and not without reason.

In looking for a scapegoat after Saturday's 25-24 loss to the All Blacks on Saturday, the wolves finally had their day.

Jantjies was poor.

He missed a routine penalty, slipped tackles and had a kick charged down that led to the All Blacks' first try. 

It was one to forget for the Lions pivot, but to say that it was a performance that warrants Jantjies losing his place is perhaps a bit over the top. 

Handre Pollard lasted a little more than 10 minutes on Saturday before he was sidelined with a head knock. That was his longest outing in a Springbok jersey since the 2015 World Cup semi-final. 

While he was on the field, Pollard showed glimpses of what he can offer and those were certainly encouraging signs from a South African perspective. 

His line break that set up Jean-Luc du Preez’s try was noticeable, and he kicks the ball further than Jantjies, too, which is a major plus. 

In the long-term, Pollard still seems the complete flyhalf with all of the right attributes to facilitate the Springbok revival.  

There are just a few small moments that have not gone Jantjies' way. It would have been fantastic for him to be a last-minute hero against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, for example, but he pulled a difficult kick to the right when it mattered most. 

He needed that one big performance in a big match where he was the Boks’ match-winner, and that just hasn’t happened yet.

Jantjies has had his best run in a Springbok jersey and has shown dramatic improvement this year compared to last, but whether that will be enough for him to be retained remains to be seen.

The Boks want to exercise a blend of ball-in-hand rugby and intelligent tactical kicking while using their forwards to run hard and directly at the opposition. 

That is what they looked to do on Saturday and, for the first time in a long time against the All Blacks, a Springbok DNA was visible.

Jantjies has been at the heart of that process, so to drop him now would be cruel.

Pollard, though, has long been considered the future of South African rugby and, at 23, he should be approaching his prime. 

From that perspective, the sooner he gets the No 10 jersey back, the better it will be for him and the Boks.

It's not an easy decision, and it is one that Coetzee will no doubt be thinking long and hard about in the weeks to come. 

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Read more on:    springboks  |  handre pollard  |  elton jantjies  |  rugby

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