Dan Carter has backed Handre Pollard to “play a key role from the get-go” for the Springboks in Saturday’s World Cup final against the All Blacks.
A former All Blacks flyhalf who has been there and won it all, Carter was consulted during The Official World Cup podcast about South Africa’s No 10 conundrum.
Libbok started the World Cup as South Africa’s only specialist flyhalf, performing excellently in the opening victory over Scotland.
However, the situation has been complicated by Pollard’s return to fitness, especially after he guided the Boks to nailbiting playoff wins over France and England with late penalties.
In the semi-final against England, played in wet conditions, Libbok was hauled off after just 30 minutes, with Pollard slotting a penalty from the halfway line in the 78th minute to win it for the Boks.
“I’ve seen it happen in big games, where there is momentum, completely one-sided and you need to be brave and make big decisions,” Carter said on Libbok’s early substitution. That’s something that Rassie has spoken about, the strength of the bench.
“They needed something. You could see how much the English wanted it in that first half. They had all the momentum. [The Springboks] needed someone who would be calm, clear and decisive in a big game with World Cup experience.
“That is why they had Pollard on the bench. If he will be on the bench this week, it’s highly unlikely. Just to have that depth and control.
“I think with the pressure, the experience of Pollard in such a big occasion, with the hurt and learnings he had from 2015, he’s been on both sides, successful and unsuccessful campaigns,” Carter added. “He’s really going to play a key part, having that experience out there right out from the get-go.
“It’s a tough one to take for Libbok but he has been a fantastic player, in different conditions, dry conditions, when it’s a bit more open.”
Carter was joined by former Bok captain John Smit, who sympathised with Libbok and said he wouldn’t be surprised if Rassie Erasmus stuck by the Stormers playmaker.
“That is the cruel thing about sport. I saw Jacques [Nienaber] speaking about how they have done it before, and they have with Bongi [Mbonambi] in 2019. It hurts a player’s mental side,” Smit said.
“The other thing that you can with absolute certainty know, is that nobody in the world can predict what Rassie is going to do next. I’ve been trying to figure him out for five years, and he is always thinking in a different way.
“I can tell you right now, don’t be surprised if you see Libbok starting. Rassie always has a plan and the only thing you know for sure is that you have no clue what he’s going to do next.”
Photo: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU and Wikus de Wet / AF