Handré Pollard has to prove his worth as a tactical kicker and decision-maker against Samoa on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Birmingham.
Heyneke Meyer has made eight changes to his starting lineup for the must-win Pool B match against Samoa. Clearly, the Bok coach feels that one of the changes is more significant than the rest.
Fourie du Preez should make a difference to the Boks’ kicking game, as well as the team’s attack. But the focus this week will be on the 21-year-old in the No 10 shirt, a man who has the potential to become South Africa’s answer to Dan Carter.
Earlier this week, Pollard told the media that he welcomed the challenge of starting against a team like Samoa. Some suggested that the Boks will need to circumvent the physicality of the Pacific Islanders. Pollard disagreed wholeheartedly. The fearless youngster promised to fight fire with fire, to take the ball into the heart of Samoa’s midfield defence.
On Wednesday, after Pollard was confirmed as the Boks’ starting flyhalf, Meyer said that the youngster needs to make this chance count. Meyer is a fan of Pollard’s attacking strengths, but wants to see the player excelling in other areas.
‘This is a horses-for-courses selection,’ the Bok coach said. ‘I know the Samoans are going to attack that No 10 channel this Saturday. Handré is a very good defender.
‘I had one-on-ones with the players earlier this week, and I was honest with Handré. He’s a great attacking player and I still believe he will go on to be one of the great flyhalves. But he needs to show more in terms of his tactical play.
‘Saturday’s game is going to be won and lost by Handré. It’s World Cup rugby, and it’s not about how many tries you score. It’s about how you manage the game.’
Meyer believes that Pollard has already shown that he has the potential to be a strong tactical flyhalf.
‘Look at how Handré won the U20 World Championship with the Junior Boks in 2012. That final was played in the rain, and Handré had to play tactically. He has the ability. It may sound like I’m putting him under pressure, but I know what I have in Handré, a player who thrives under pressure.’
The inclusion of Du Preez, a player who has won many titles with the Bulls and Boks over his long and successful career, should aid Pollard and the backline as a whole.
‘Fourie is a true general, and possesses one of the best rugby minds I’ve ever come across,’ said Meyer, ‘Without disrespecting our pool opponents, we felt that we could build towards the quarter-finals and get guys like Fourie to play more as we progressed. I believe in Fourie, although it may take a game or two for him to be at his best again. I’m confident he will dictate the flow of the game this weekend.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images