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Rugby | Springboks

Allister Coetzee © Getty Images

Coetzee chuffed with flyhalf depth

With Curwin Bosch having had a small taste of international rugby and also benefitted from the tactical acumen of the Springbok coaches and Handre Pollard now ready to return to the field, Allister Coetzee has returned from Argentina chuffed with his flyhalf depth.

Pollard was cleared to play again after a long absence from the field because of injury when the Boks were in Port Elizabeth for the first Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash with the Pumas two weeks ago. The Bok coach admits he was tempted to select the experience Bulls pivot into his match day 23 then, but decided to delay it so that Pollard could make some more gains in his conditioning.

It is anticipated that Pollard will be included in the tour group that will travel to Australasia for the next leg of the Championship later this week, with Bosch probably returning to play for the Sharks in the Currie Cup. However, Coetzee says that the way he sees it, the Boks now have three flyhalves to choose from, whereas they were in a hole earlier this year when Patrick Lambie suffered a recurrence of his concussion problems at the same time that Pollard was on the sidelines.

At that point Elton Jantjies, who Coetzee has praised for his influential role in a Bok record for the year so far that reads played five and won five, with all those victories coming by comfortable margins, was man alone when it came to flyhalf options. He is likely to continue as the starting No 10, at least for the foreseeable future, but at least he now has back-up.

“It will be great to have Handre back as he is an accomplished player with international experience and we all know what he is capable of and what his abilities are,” said Coetzee.

“Some people might say it is a risk to select him back into international rugby when he hasn’t played in the Currie Cup, but our high intensity sessions that Handre has been involved with are probably as if not more intense than a Currie Cup game. I am confident he will be ready to play if called on now and I did consider selecting him when we were in Port Elizabeth.

“That though doesn’t mean that Curwin just drops out and is forgotten about. We have been impressed with the progress he has made as part of the Bok group and we will be interested to see him apply some of what he has learned in the Currie Cup. We know that Curwin is a highly talented and promising player who has a long international career ahead of him, and if there was an injury now and we had to call him up, he has at least been blooded at international level and we would be confident in playing him.”

Although Pollard has 20 international caps to his name and was the first choice flyhalf at the last World Cup before injuries interrupted his career, he has some work to do to displace incumbent Jantjies, who has impressed Coetzee highly in 2017 and has now established himself at international level.

“Elton has been fantastic this year and is one of the senior players in the group and deserves to be applauded for the way that he has performed,” said Coetzee after the squad arrived back from Argentina on Tuesday.

“Elton sometimes gets criticised when he performs poorly so it is only fair he gets top credit now that he has really been doing well for us. He has slotted 34 out of 38 kicks at posts this year. That is a phenomenal success rate. He is also very important to the game we want to play and has played a big role in helping our game growth this year.

“Apart from backing up captain Eben (Etzebeth) by helping with the decision making at the back and taking a lot of the pressure off his shoulders in calling moves, Elton has been pivotal in creating and spotting space. The way he has managed our game this year has been highly impressive and is a very influential figure within the team. His contribution has been immeasurable and is right now in a good space as an international player.”

It is likely that Pollard, who can also play inside centre, will be part of the match 23 in Perth in the next Rugby Championship test on 9 September and make his comeback to international rugby - he hasn't played at the highest level since the 2015 World Cup - off the bench.


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