RWC 2023

Pollard starts for much-changed Springboks against Tonga

September 28, 2023 5:44 am

[Source: Reuters]

Handre Pollard will start at flyhalf in one of 12 changes for South Africa in their must-win Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against Tonga in Marseille on Sunday, as coach Jacques Nienaber picked no specialist hooker and Duane Vermeulen at flanker.

Pollard has played 30 minutes of rugby for Leicester Tigers since May due to injury, but the Springboks are eager to give him a run with his accuracy off the kicking tee potentially crucial in the knockout rounds, should South Africa get there.

He replaces Manie Libbok, who moves to the bench having been excellent with ball in hand during the tournament, but wasteful with kicks at goal.

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Number eight Jasper Wiese, captain Siya Kolisi and lock Eben Etzebeth were the only players included who started the 13-8 loss to Ireland last weekend, as Nienaber also reverted to a 5-3 split between forwards and backs on the bench, a rarity for his side.

Regular loose-forward Deon Fourie, who played his first game at hooker in five years against Romania in the pool stages, starts in the front row and his replacement will be another flanker in Marco van Staden, who is also a back-up in the number two jersey.

Scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse and centre Jesse Kriel are the other backline options on the bench with Libbok.

The starting back three contains wings Makazole Mapimpi and Grant Williams, and fullback Willie le Roux, while Andre Esterhuizen and Canan Moodie are the midfield pairing.

Cobus Reinach brings his experience to scrumhalf to play alongside Pollard.

Wiese stays at number eight, with Vermeulen getting a rare start as a flanker to bring that physicality and break-down pressure Nienaber spoke of along with Kolisi.

Old school friends Etzebeth and Marvin Orie are the lock pairing, with props Vincent Koch and Ox Nche on either side of Fourie.

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