Fit-again Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard has made the arduous trip back to New Zealand for the tour-ending match against the Highlanders.
The AOR team debates the decision, given Pollard’s leading role with the Springboks and the proximity of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Tank Lanning – It’s madness, I tell you!
Remember the Super 18? Yes that most dreadful iteration of the tournament currently on life support. Well, South Africa caused that! Through refusing to cull one of the Kings or Cheetahs, and demanding a better traveling schedule for the SA players.
Hence the Sunwolves playing in an empty stadium in Singapore, and the dastardly conference system that includes more local derbies than maggots on a rotting elephant carcass.
Yet now, mere months out from a World Cup, we are happy to send the number one flyhalf in the country halfway round the world to play in a single provincial game that may or may not impact on the Bulls chances of playing in a quarter final – one that would be played a long way from home.
That’s 56 hours of travel for 80 minutes of rugby!
Handre Pollard is far from perfect (my learned colleague reckons he uses too much ball, takes unnecessary contact, and has average distribution), but he’s won more Tests than he’s lost and, factoring in experience, is currently far and away the best available Bok option.
Notwithstanding his latest disciplinary issues at the Lions, next in line, Elton Jantjies is not only a totally different type of player, but one who has missed the most tackles in Super Rugby in each of the past two seasons, earned almost 40% of his Test caps from the bench, and started in the historic losses against Argentina, Wales and New Zealand.
One cannot blame coach Pote Human or the Bulls for wanting to call on a resource they pay seriously top dollar to utilise, but for once, it would have been nice to see South African rugby acting in the best interests of, well, South African rugby.
Zelím Nel – What the problem is?
The alternatives at flyhalf make Handre Pollard so valuable to South Africa in this World Cup year that I argued for him being immediately withdrawn from Super Rugby to limit his exposure to injury.
While I stand by the logic of that argument, it was made with my Springbok cap on. Pote Human’s cap is blue and it’s got a pair of horns on it. The Bulls coach needs to win on Friday, not in September. And that’s the basis for his decision to drag Pollard back to the land of the conniving Kiwis to battle the Highlanders.
Human, the former EP and Free State loosie, is 59 years old and has been coaching professionally since 1996. In 23 years, this is his most senior coaching gig. The Bulls have won seven of 14 matches and, with two league games to go, they’re placed third in the SA Conference between the Lions (35 log points) and Sharks (33).
Coming off a draw in Auckland, the Bulls are still hunting their first Kiwi scalp under Human. Manie Libbok started at 10 in that match, missing 40% of his tackles and conceding two turnovers in a high-error performance.
Pollard is the Bulls’ stand-in captain. No team relies more on goal-kicks than the Bulls and Pollard tops the Super Rugby points-scorers list this season. His Bulls contract was negotiated on the basis of his contribution in Super Rugby.
To quote Martin Lawrence in National Security: “What the problem is?” Why wouldn’t the Bulls fly Pollard over for Friday’s scrimmage?
In an ideal world, all the players would be contracted to, and controlled by, the national governing body, but rugby in South Africa is further from ideal than Pretoria is from Dunedin.
OK, you’ve read what they think, now let us know which way you’re leaning, or join the #BigDebate on Twitter!