Springboks watch Pollard as decision looms on Marx replacement

September 17, 2023 7:47 am

[Source: Reuters]

South Africa’s coaching team watched flyhalf Handre Pollard in action for Leicester Tigers in a friendly against Sale Sharks on Friday night, as they weigh up how to replace injured hooker Malcolm Marx in their Rugby World Cup squad.

Marx injured his knee in training this week and has been ruled out of the remainder of the competition, leaving Bongi Mbonambi as the only specialist hooker in the squad and loose-forwards Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden filling in the void.

Fourie has played hooker before, but not since 2018, while Van Staden has trained there with the Boks this year.

Article continues after advertisement

The 2019 World Cup winner Pollard, who had a calf injury when the squad for France was announced on Aug. 8, now looks the front-runner to add some depth at flyhalf and accuracy off the kicking tee ahead of the World Cup knockout rounds.

He came off the bench for Leicester and helped them to an 18-14 win over Sale, although he also picked up a yellow card.

“We haven’t made any decision yet, maybe something will come after this game (on Sunday against Romania)” Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick told reporters on Saturday.

“We watched him (Pollard) yesterday, he had about 30 minutes. Also, we have got a guy like (specialist hooker) Joseph Dweba who’s currently back in South Africa and in full shape.”

Opinion in South Africa has become polarised over whether the side should add a second specialist number two or provide more surety from the kicking tee in what are likely to be tight knockout games should they advance from Pool B.

Manie Libbok, who started at flyhalf in the 18-3 win over Scotland last weekend, has been in excellent form with ball in hand for the Boks this year, but has had issues going for the poles. He kicked two from five against the Scots.

The number two flyhalf in the squad Damian Willemse, who plays predominantly at fullback, is in a similar boat, with other kicking options coming from scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Cheslin Kolbe.