Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport


Bok bosses’ biggest gamble yet — picking a flyhalf in place of a hooker?

It's either Handre Pollard or Joseph Dweba who will take over from Malcolm Marx in World Cup squad.


All indications point to Handre Pollard returning to the Springbok set-up following the World Cup-ending injury suffered by hooker Malcolm Marx. Picking a flyhalf in place of a hooker is some gamble, in anyone’s books, but the Boks’ management team appear to be happy they have enough cover at No 2 in their squad in France but need someone of Pollard’s experience to back-up at flyhalf. This, after the Bok bosses had assured everyone they were happy enough with their flyhalf cover with the likes of Damian Willemse and Willie le Roux able to slot in at 10, while Faf…

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All indications point to Handre Pollard returning to the Springbok set-up following the World Cup-ending injury suffered by hooker Malcolm Marx.

Picking a flyhalf in place of a hooker is some gamble, in anyone’s books, but the Boks’ management team appear to be happy they have enough cover at No 2 in their squad in France but need someone of Pollard’s experience to back-up at flyhalf.

This, after the Bok bosses had assured everyone they were happy enough with their flyhalf cover with the likes of Damian Willemse and Willie le Roux able to slot in at 10, while Faf de Klerk has been backed as the official third-choice flyhalf, and will get game time in the position against Romania on Sunday.

Also, the Bok bosses have stated they are unconcerned about the missed goal kicks by Manie Libbok, the first-choice No 10, and would prefer him to create tries and be named man of the match, than slot goal kicks. Also, the Bok bosses have stated De Klerk can kick for goal, and so can Cheslin Kolbe and Willemse.

The question needs to be asked, with the Boks firing as well as they are — they have registered five impressive wins in a row (twice against Argentina, Wales, New Zealand and Scotland) with Libbok at 10 — why change things, and complicate matters?

Let someone else kick at goal

Libbok has been at the heart of much of what has been good about the Boks in recent weeks and has changed the Boks’ attacking game. His kicking out of hand and reading of the play has been phenomenal; the only thing lacking in his game being his at times erratic goal-kicking.

But then let De Klerk or Kolbe or Willemse kick.

If the Boks do opt to bring Pollard back into the squad, after he initially missed out on selection because of an injury, the Boks will be left with only Bongi Mbonambi as a recognised hooker in the squad. It is a gamble even if Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden can play in the middle of the front row.

Siya Kolisi and Marco van Staden
Siya Kolisi with Marco van Staden during a training session in France. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

In any other team (I’d think) it would be a no-brainer to bring in a hooker for a hooker, in this case Joseph Dweba for Marx, a specialist position. But we know Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber do things differently and think differently, and have had success, so maybe they know better … and have a matchday plan all worked out already.

Van Staden as third choice hooker

Van Staden stated on Friday he has been working on his hooker skills for some time — since the first alignment camp early in the year — and is ready to step up in the No 2 jersey.

“I have been practicing my throwing on the side in case of an injury or any situation that happens on the field and you need an emergency hooker,” he said.

“I’m very comfortable there in practice but I know that in the game that it would be far more different.”

If the highly experienced Pollard, who we know is a proven winner, quality player and good goal-kicker, does return, where does it leave Libbok — a player the Bok bosses have invested heavily in recently and who has slotted into the team seamlessly and helped turn the World Cup defending champions into one of the most exciting and most attacking teams in the game?

Is there place for Pollard and Libbok in the match-23 and how will it affect the “bomb squad” and the split between forwards and backs on the bench?

There are myriad questions about bringing Pollard back into the squad. Only time will tell if the gamble pays off and makes the Boks stronger and better or if it is a decision that will be regretted for years to come.

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