The Springboks could seize an opportunity to pair Elton Jantjies and Handré Pollard as a 10-12 combination again during the latter stages of Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Port Elizabeth.
On Monday afternoon, the Boks ran through a high-intensity training session in warm conditions at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. With training open to the public, hundreds of fans turned out to watch the Boks, reserving special cheers for ‘homecoming’ captain Siya Kolisi.
Sitting on the sidelines, Kings coach Deon Davids also watched on, while kicking specialist Louis Koen and Junior Boks coach Chean Roux mingled briefly with the group.
Among the playing contingent, there was also the somewhat surprising sight of Damian de Allende taking part in some of the training runs despite having picked up a worrying shoulder injury in the Boks’ famous win over the All Blacks earlier this month.
Although De Allende seems to be making a speedy recovery, he doesn’t appear in line to make any sort of miraculous return in time for Saturday’s highly-anticipated clash against Australia, who are based just down the road from the Bok hotel.
Instead, the logical move should see André Esterhuizen reclaim the No 12 jersey, while Jesse Kriel is the expected choice to revert to his preferred position at outside centre in the absence of injured Lukhanyo Am.
Injuries and some experimentation have seen the Boks need to mix and match in the midfield, and there should now be an opportunity for Esterhuizen and Kriel to enjoy another extended hit out.
In a sense, circumstances have also seen the Boks uncover another somewhat unexpected option in a key backline channel.
The injury sustained by De Allende during the early stages of the second half against the All Blacks forced Pollard to shift to 12, with Elton Jantjies coming off the bench to slot in at flyhalf.
The duo dovetailed well together, and it’s a nice luxury for the Boks to have when play opens in the second half, with two specialist ‘first receivers’ offering a left and right-footed kicking option.
Willie le Roux was only expected to link up with the Boks on Monday evening after rejoining his English club last week, and in his absence, Damian Willemse ran at fullback for most of Monday’s session, while Cheslin Kolbe slotted in on the right wing.
It will be interesting to see whether the Boks might be tempted to give Willemse an extended run on Saturday, although Le Roux’s return has indicated the value placed on the presence of the experienced fullback.
It was a point that assistant coach Mzwandile Stick highlighted at the start of the week.
‘He [Le Roux] adds great value to our side, and it’s been seen that when the likes of Willie are at their best, with their leadership and execution, then you have a better chance of winning. So for us, we are just grateful to have another leader and key decision-maker back with us.’
The Springboks are set to name their team for the Wallabies clash at 1:30pm on Thursday.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images