South Africa have called up flyhalf Handre Pollard to their World Cup squad as an injury replacement, significantly strengthening their selection, after injury forced them to leave him out initially, SA Rugby said on Sunday.
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Pollard, who helped kick South Africa to World Cup success four years ago, replaces hooker Malcolm Marx, who suffered a serious knee injury in training last week.
South Africa’s coaching team watched Pollard in action for Leicester Tigers against Sale Sharks on Friday, deeming him fit enough to return and choosing a proven kicker instead of a replacement hooker.
“We are confident with the cover we have at hooker with Bongi Mbonambi and Deon Fourie, and Marco van Staden has been slotting in the position since our alignment camps in February, so we opted to call up Handre, who has been in our system for years and who was a member of our team in 2019 when we won the World Cup,” said coach Jacques Nienaber in a statement released not long after their 76-0 win over Romania in Bordeaux.
“He’s been working hard to return to full fitness, and we are pleased that he now has some game time under his belt for his club, and this will allow him to slot back into the team.
“We’ll work closely with him in the next week to get him back up to speed and back into the full swing of things, and we have no doubt he’ll step up to the challenge. He’s been here before so he knows the physical and mental demands of the World Cup.”
Pollard had a calf injury when the squad for France was announced on Aug. 8, and his inclusion adds some depth at flyhalf and accuracy off the kicking tee ahead of the World Cup knockout rounds.
He came off the bench for Leicester to help them to an 18-14 win over Sale.
Manie Libbok, who started at flyhalf in the 18-3 win over Scotland in the Bok’s opening Pool B clash, has been in excellent form with ball in hand this year, but has had issues going for the poles. He kicked two from five against the Scots.
South Africa used Damian Willemse at flyhalf in Sunday’s runaway win over Romania in Bordeaux and later had scrumhalf Faf de Klerk at number 10 but also used the match to experiment with options at hooker and were pleased enough with loose-forwards Fourie and Van Staden filling in the void.
Marx was ruled out of the remainder of the competition, leaving Mbonambi as the only specialist hooker in the squad.