Pollard out; Willemse back on his feet

Henry

Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard is likely to miss the Rugby Championship while Damian Willemse has recovered from his injuries and has been declared fit.

Pollard is struggling with a calf injury. Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby at Saru, says lock Eben Etzebeth and scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse are meanwhile making good progress with their recovery from shoulder injuries. Jean-Luc du Preez has meanwhile also joined the team in Pretoria.

The Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign kicks off on Saturday 8 July with a match against Australia at Loftus Versfeld. They face New Zealand a week later and Argentina on 29 July.

“Our only real injury problem for the Rugby Championship is Handré,” said Erasmus. “It’s a calf injury that he re-injured when he played for Leicester. He is at this stage in a similar position to Siya (Kolisi) who could be available for the World Cup warm-up games.”

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has allayed fears that Pollard’s injury could set the team back in their preparations for the Rugby World Cup in France.

“No, this is not a setback in our planning. We have a game strategy and each fly-half brings their own style and skills to the game.”

Looking ahead to their opening Test of the season against Australia, Nienaber said the Boks’ focus is on their own game, especially with the change in the Wallabies’ coaching staff.

“As we said last week, it’s difficult to prepare to face Australia because we’re not sure if they’ll play with an Eddie Jones or Dave Rennie mindset, so the key for us is to to focus on ourselves,” said Nienaber. “We have to be able to adapt to everything they throw at us on the day.

“I’m not quite sure how they (Australia) work with their teams,” said Nienaber. “I saw they have two groups with different names, and that one will face us and the other will stay behind. So everyone is getting ready for the Rugby Championship to build momentum before the World Cup.”

The Springboks will play three World Cup warm-up matches after the Rugby Championship – on 5 August against Argentina in Buenos Aires, on 19 August against Wales in Cardiff and on 25 August against New Zealand in London.