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Jon Cardinelli

Pollard needs pack to fire


Handré Pollard in charge for the Junior Boks Handré Pollard in charge for the Junior Boks

A dominant showing by the Springbok forwards will allow Handré Pollard to mark his Test debut with a win against Scotland, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Pollard is only 20. He made his Super Rugby debut earlier this year, and will be playing in his first Test this Saturday. It wouldn't be fair to ask too much of this youngster, at least not at this stage of his career.

And yet, there could be pressure from the outset. The Bok side that starts against Scotland in Nelspruit won't be as strong as the team that fronted Wales in Durban and Nelspruit. The hosts won't boast the same experience in their combinations, and they will be missing their best goal-kicker, Morné Steyn.

Pollard will hope that the new-look pack fires in the first half. He will need the Bok heavies to meet the typically rabid Scotland challenge at the breakdown, and from there, the onus is on him to play South Africa into the right areas.

It will help that he is playing alongside a familiar face in Bulls, and former SA U20 team-mate Jan Serfontein. What's more, Pollard has one of the finest tacticians in Fourie du Preez as his scrumhalf.

Meyer believes the kid is ready for the big time, and that he has the temperament to complement his size and natural flair. Meyer, and indeed the whole of South Africa, will want to see that mettle on Saturday.

But it all starts with the Bok pack. The South African forwards need to provide their young pivot with a platform. They can't allow Scotland to get on the front foot and target rookies like Pollard.

While a number of first-choice forwards are unavailable, the Boks still have their captain and lineout kingpin, Victor Matfield, and should boss the set pieces. Duane Vermeulen and Bismarck du Plessis will lead the physical charge, and the veteran Schalk Burger will also have a big job to do at the breakdown.

Don't expect a fluid performance from what is a Bok side missing a number of star players. Expect plenty of physicality, and if Pollard is on song with the boot, a first-half scoreline that reflects South Africa's dominance.

Scotland are also without a few first-choice players, but Meyer and company will remember that it was a second-string Scotland that rattled the Boks in Nelspruit last year. It would be foolish to underestimate the Bravehearts again.

HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Boks 19, Scotland 5
In South Africa: Boks 6, Scotland 0

POLLARD'S STATS THAT MATTER
89.5% – His goal-kicking success rate for the Bulls this season (17 from 19 attempts)
141 – The number of points he's scored in three Junior World Championship campaigns (Rank 2 on all-time list)
65 – The number of points he scored at the 2014 Junior World Championship (Rank 2)

Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcel Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Tebogo 'Oupa' Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Zane Kirchner.

Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Robert Harley, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Moray Low, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Tyrone Holmes, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Dougie Fife, 23 Peter Murchie.

Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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