Handré Pollard is excited about a talented, new-look Bok backline that will be out to impress against England this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Johannesburg.
In a backline that includes two debutants – Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi – on the wing, and one-cap Lukhanyo Am at outside centre, Pollard will have a crucial role to play as an experienced flyhalf general (28 caps).
When fronting up to the media after Thursday’s team announcement, Pollard said it had been impressive to see how seamlessly some of the youngsters had settled into the national camp.
‘There are some new faces in the backline, the likes of Aphiwe and S’bu are unbelievable talents who have been in great form. I’m really excited to see what they can do, then guys like Willie [le Roux] and Faf [de Klerk] have had great seasons in England, while Damian [De Allende] is always class. I think it’s a really exciting backline, and we’ve had some good sessions in training getting to know each other.
‘I’m been really impressed with them [Dyantyi and Nkosi],’ Pollard added when asked about the two rookie wings. ‘The way they’ve handled themselves and their work ethic, and what they bring to the team. We all know the talent, the stepping and the flair they possess, but they also have a great knowledge of the game. Then Willie will add that experience at the back.’
Pollard will form a new halfback pairing with De Klerk, who makes a return to the Bok set-up after a superb debut season with the Sale Sharks in England. Pollard couldn’t help but smile when discussing the strengths of the jack-in-the-box scrumhalf.
‘Faf clears the ball very quickly, and he’s very dangerous around the rucks, you always have to watch him. I think what he learned in England is about the kicking part of the game, he’s matured a lot in that sense. He plays with a composed mindset, and I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen from him in training.’
The weather in Johannesburg this week has been cool, clear and dry, while the conditions are also expected to be fine on Saturday evening. England have opted to train at sea level in Durban this week, and will fly up to Johannesburg on Friday.
Pollard said it would be interesting to see what approach they adopt in a different environment on Saturday.
‘Playing in the Six Nations is very different to playing a 5pm game here at Ellis Park. The conditions have been great this week, and we expect it to be the same on Saturday. It’s something England might enjoy and look to keep the ball in hand a bit more, or they could kick quite a bit [on the highveld]. You never know what to expect. We’ve prepared as best we can, but you have to always be ready for 10 or 15% of something that could be different.’