Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Pollard blow puts spotlight back on Springboks’ flyhalf depth

Over the past two seasons the Boks have had major problems at flyhalf and the fact that the management still hasn’t addressed it is surprising.

The Springboks suffered a major blow to their hopes of retaining the Webb Ellis Cup when it was announced that Handre Pollard would not be part of the World Cup squad due to a persistent calf injury.

Despite being ruled out of the Rugby Championship and missing the first World Cup warm-up match against Argentina due to the injury, it was always expected that Pollard would be included in the final 33-man group to battle it out in the showpiece event in France.

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However, Pollard’s injury setback has firmly put the spotlight back on the team’s lack of flyhalf depth.

Stormers star Manie Libbok is the only out and out flyhalf in the World Cup squad, while Damian Willemse and Willie le Roux will reportedly provide cover for the position.

Major problems

Over the past two seasons the Boks have had major problems at flyhalf and the fact that the management still haven’t addressed it is surprising and concerning.

Johan Goosen was earmarked as the Boks’ preferred back-up flyhalf choice last year, but due to injuries and him not managing to get back into the form needed to play on the international stage, that idea was dumped.

Libbok was then the obvious choice to be blooded, but it took until the end-of-year-tour last year for him to finally make his debut and make three appearances off the bench.

With Pollard’s injury being more serious than the Boks initially thought, Libbok has been backed as the frontline flyhalf this season, starting three of the four matches so far, with Willemse starting the other.

While Libbok has stepped up to the plate and delivered, it remains to be seen if he can handle the pressures of World Cup rugby, especially with him still relatively new to the international game.

Goal kicking

There will now also be a question mark over the goal kicking as Libbok is the only frontline goal kicker for his franchise side, with Willemse, Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe all back-up options from the tee.

The strangest part of the flyhalf problems was the Boks’ decision to call the experienced Elton Jantjies into the squad as injury cover for Pollard at the start of the international season, but then subsequently release him from the squad a few weeks ago.

This seemed to indicate that the Boks were happy with the progress of Pollard’s return to play.

But with him now left out of the World Cup squad it begs the question why Jantjies was released when he could provide valuable cover for the group at the World Cup.