As the Springboks prepare for Sunday’s World Cup match against Romania in Bordeaux, they will also be keeping a close eye on the English Premier League.
Handré Pollard has been included on Leicester Tigers’ substitutes’ bench for Friday night’s game against the Sale Sharks.
The 29-year-old flyhalf is one of the South Africans’ backup players and many supporters believe that he is in the inner lane to fill the shoes of the injured Malcolm Marx in France.
Jacques Nienaber confirmed that Marx’s replacement will not necessarily come from forward ranks.
“We are keeping an eye on the progress of players like Handré and Lukhanyo Am, but we will definitely be watching the Leicester Tigers game,” said the Springbok coach.
According to Nienaber, the official substitute decision will be made after the Romania showdown.
It will be unfair to the match group if the Bok management now concentrates too much on a suitable replacement. In addition, divided attention can also be catastrophic in a World Cup tournament; after all, you slip the most when you haven’t noticed the banana peel.
However, Jake White writes in a column for Rugby365 that he will be surprised if plans are not already being made to get Pollard in France.
“Why is it so important to make Pollard part of the setup? When you look at the history book of the World Cup tournaments, you will see that not many tries are scored in the semi-finals and final. Set-piece work is very important in play-offs,” wrote the World Cup-winning coach.
However, Marx will be missed with a heavy heart.
The 29-year-old hooker is quite possibly the Boks’ best player – especially when you factor in physical presence, scrum work and ball-stealing skills.
But with Bongi Mbonambi, Deon Fourie and even Marco van Staden already in France, the South Africans’ stomachs still look very full.
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks: Mike Brown (full back), Josh Bassett (right wing), Guy Porter (outside centre), Dan Kelly (inside centre), Ollie Hassell-Collins (left wing), Charlie Atkinson (fly-half), Joe Powell (scrum-half), Matt Rogerson (eighth man), Emeka Ilione (flank), Hanro Liebenberg (captain and flank), Mike Williams (lock), Cameron Henderson (lock), Joe Heyes (prop), Charlie Clare (hooker) and Francois van Wyk (prop). Subs: Nic Dolly, James Whitcombe, Will Hurd, Sam Carter, Kyle Hatherell, Tom Whiteley, Handré Pollard and James Shillcock.