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Injured flyhalf to return before Rugby World Cup

Pollard’s absence puts Libbok and Jantjies in the spotlight

The flyhalf’s 11th-hour return before the Rugby World Cup may add to the angst, as captain Siya Kolisi is already on that late train

Springboks players during the South Africa men's national rugby team training session at Loftus Versfeld B Field on June 27, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Springboks players during the South Africa men's national rugby team training session at Loftus Versfeld B Field on June 27, 2023 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu

There were no signs of distress or alarm when the Springbok brains trust announced Handré Pollard’s continued absence from the team due to a calf injury.

Pollard, they announced earlier this week, will miss the Rugby Championship (RC) and is only expected to return to the playing field in one of the three Rugby World Cup (RWC) warm-up Tests against Argentina, Wales and New Zealand.

They tried their best to exude a calm demeanour but there may be a little angst at Pollard’s 11th-hour return before the RWC. Already captain Siya Kolisi is on that late-late train.

Apart from complete battle readiness for the RWC for Pollard, there are also more immediate concerns.

His confirmed absence leaves the Springboks a goal kicker light, with Manie Libbok now very much the go-to man in lining up kicks, while Elton Jantjies’s return from the cold gives them some relief.

While the Boks have generally done well to avert a crisis in the goal kicking department over the past few years, they were caught agonisingly short when they lost 19-16 to Ireland in Dublin in November 2022.

Damian Willemse and Cheslin Kolbe raised the flags with a penalty each but it is a Test the Boks could have won with greater accuracy off the tee.

Libbok made his debut against France the next week and the Boks had little concern when they took aim at goal for the rest of the tour.

His form for the Stormers on the balance of the season has largely been superb.

In Pollard’s absence he could be one of the team’s most valuable players in the RC.

The Bok coaches have stressed that they don’t want to rush Pollard back too soon. A miscalculation on that front would be catastrophic.

“That’s why we go Elton [Jantjies]” has become a popular refrain.

With Pollard out of the picture for now and Willemse only just returning from injury the Bok coaches have much to ponder. They have already made it clear they will play different squads for the opening two Rugby Championship Tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks.

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