Handre Pollard Springboks

Handre Pollard will play his first Test since August 2022 as coach Jacques Nienaber named his team to face Tonga. Photo: BackpagePix

BREAKING: Pollard returns to Springbok team to face Tonga

Flyhalf Handre Pollard has been named in the Springboks’ starting team to face Tonga in this Sunday’s final World Cup pool game.

Handre Pollard Springboks

Handre Pollard will play his first Test since August 2022 as coach Jacques Nienaber named his team to face Tonga. Photo: BackpagePix

Pollard will play his first Test since August 2022, returning to the No 10 jersey, while Manie Libbok has been named on the bench.

Nienaber made 12 changes to the starting team from the one which played Ireland, retaining forwards Siya Kolisi – who will make his 50th appearance as captain – Eben Etzebeth and Jasper Wiese for the must-win clash. Nienaber named a traditional split of five forwards and three backs on the bench.

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Pollard makes his first Springbok appearance since playing against Australia in Adelaide before injury forced him out of the subsequent 16 Tests. The clash against Tonga is his second match in 19 weeks since suffering a calf injury for English club Leicester Tigers in the English Premiership in May. He returned to action last week as a replacement in Leicester’s match against Sale Sharks.

The calf injury ruled Pollard out of the initial 33-man RWC squad but he now partners scrumhalf Cobus Reinach at halfback, while Andre Esterhuizen and Canan Moodie are reunited as a hard-running centre combination. Makazole Mapimpi and Grant Williams will patrol the wings as they did against Romania.

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Up-front, Deon Fourie will earn his first start in the Springbok jersey at hooker in a front row with props Ox Nche and Vincent Koch, while Etzebeth and Marvin Orie will support them in the second row.

Koch’s inclusion marks his first start in the green and gold jumper since the RWC pool game against Canada on 8 October 2019 after he was withdrawn from the matchday squad against Romania two weeks ago due to a knee injury suffered in the warm-up.

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The only change Nienaber made among the loose forwards was at flanker, where regular No 8 Duane Vermeulen will wear the No 7 jersey in a formidable combination with Kolisi and Wiese.

The most notable change on Nienaber’s bench was the inclusion of Marco Van Staden at hooker, next to prop replacements Steven Kitshoff and Trevor Nyakane, while the versatile Franco Mostert and Kwagga Smith will complete the forward complement on the bench.

The three backline players on the bench are scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse, centre Jesse Kriel and Libbok.

In total, 13 players in the match-23 were retained from last week’s 13-8 defeat against Ireland.

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Pollard has returned to the Springbok team vs Tonga:

15 – Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls) – 89 caps, 70 pts (14t)
14 – Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 7 caps, 10 (2t)
13 – Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) – 9 caps, 20 pts (4t)
12 – Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins) – 15 caps, 0pts
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 40 caps, 130 pts (26t)
10 – Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers) – 67 caps, 665 pts (7t, 91c, 145pg, 5d)
9 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 29 caps, 60 pts (12t)
8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 25 caps, 5 pts (1t)
7 – Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby) – 72 caps, 15 pts (3t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Racing 92) – 78 caps, 50 pts (10t)
5 – Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) – 15 caps, 0 pts
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 115 caps, 25 pts (5t)
3 – Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 46 caps, 0pts
2 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 9 caps, 5 pts (1t)
1 – Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 24 caps, 0 pts
16 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 17 caps, 0 pts
17 – Steven Kitshoff (Ulster) – 78 caps, 10 pts (2t)
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 65 caps, 5 pts (1t)
19 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 69 caps, 15 pts (3t)
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 36 caps, 30 pts (6t)
21 – Jaden Hendrikse (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – 14 caps, 12 pts (2t, 1c)
22 – Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 64 caps, 70 pts (14t)
23 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 11 caps, 74 pts (1t, 21c, 9pg)

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Stats and Facts

Springbok record against Tonga:
Played 2, Won 2, Lost 0. Points for: 104; Points against: 35. Tries scored: 16; Tries conceded: 4. Highest score: 74; Biggest win: 64 points (74-10). Average score: 52-17. Win %: 100%.

  • Milestones:
    Willie le Roux will play in his 90th Test match for the Boks on Sunday.
  • Siya Kolisi will captain the Springboks for the 50th time in a Test match.
  • It will be the third Test match between the Springboks against Tonga. The last time they lined up against one another was at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, also in France, with the Boks winning by 30-25.


  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 638.
  • There are 254 caps in the backline, with 384 caps among the forwards. On the bench there are a further 354 caps.
  • The average caps per player in the backline is 36, the forwards 48, while the players on the bench average 44.

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