Libbok Pollard Springboks

Both Pollard and Libbok will be looking to make the 10 jersey their own.
Image: X /@sport_wordsmith

Pollard won’t play 80 minutes, Libbok still has a key role

The Springboks have reiterated there have to be realistic expectations of Handre Pollard as he returns to the starting lineup.

Libbok Pollard Springboks

Both Pollard and Libbok will be looking to make the 10 jersey their own.
Image: X /@sport_wordsmith

The major talking point from the Springboks’ team announcement on Wednesday was the selection of Handre Pollard at 10 for this Sunday’s final World Cup pool game against Tonga, while Manie Libbok has been named 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.

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If Pollard passes this test with flying colours, it’s almost certain that he will reclaim the No 10 jersey for the knockout stage of the competition, which would stand to reason considering those sort of playoff games can so often be decided by goal kicks.

Yet, it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean Libbok has to drop out of the matchday 23.

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There is a chance that the Springbok coaches could see value in keeping Libbok as a member of the bomb squad – allowing him to come off the bench to add impact value just as he did during three Tests on the 2022 end of year tour.

As a playmaker, the 26-year-old could certainly excel when the game has opened up, while there is even a chance that Pollard could then move to inside centre when Libbok does come on, with Damian de Allende either coming off or shifting to 13.

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Don’t expect too much of Pollard just yet

As Pollard makes his long-awaited return to the Bok team, coach Jacques Nienaber has explained that it may take some time for him to fully get back up to speed, while it’s clear that Libbok will still have an important role to play off the bench.

“He (Pollard) understands what international and top-level rugby is all about, but we must stay real with where he is, and we must give him time to settle in and get used to the pace again.

“Because he’s such an experienced player and knows what it’s all about, he’ll probably settle into his stride a lot quicker than a player who hasn’t been exposed to high-pressure rugby.

“I expect a realistic performance in knowing that he hasn’t played for us in 13 months and that he’s only played for 30 minutes in 19 weeks. That’s the reality, but he’s a quality player…. We’ll slowly build him up, so I’ll be surprised if he last’s 80 minutes.”

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