The Springboks should consider Handrè Pollard at inside-centre.
It is fast becoming a trend, with England, the British and Irish Lions and Australia using Owen Farrell and Kurtley Beale (both natural 10s) at 12. Rugby is getting to a place where players are not limited to the numbers on their backs.
With Jan Serfontein moving to 13, a Jantjies-Pollard-Serfontein combination could be interesting. Jesse Kriel is a magnificent athlete, but in the Rugby Championship, he proved to be too lateral, hesitant and predictable. He can work on this, but it is worth looking at a new axis.
In the Springboks 1-3-3-1 pattern (the same pattern England, the Lions and Australia use), Pollard and the inside pod of three forwards could be a menace for the natural weakness in the transition-zone. A zone loosely defined as the area between the last forward defender and the first back defender.
A great example of this is Jean-Luc du Preez’s try against the All Blacks. Pollard played flat and close to the ruck-defence, stepped a forward and offloaded to Malcolm Marx in the gap, leading to the try.
Jantjies could play behind the outside pod. He would receive the ball in space and exploit the natural weaknesses outside 13 or behind the defensive-line with an attacking kick. In that channel, Jantjies would have less pressure on him, and he could utilise his attacking strengths better. With the decrease in direct pressure on Jantjies, I believe he would flourish here.
I believe he would flourish here.
Pollard could also be another kicking option taking the pressure off Jantjies and Cronje. Graham Henry used to say that the ideal exit strategy is where 12 makes the kick because there is less pressure and it forces the defensive wings to join the defensive line from the back. The All Blacks using Ma’a Nonu to clear is an excellent example of this.
This all results in more options for the Boks on attack and the exit strategy. Although Pollard hasn’t had a lot of game time this year and there could be a question about the effect on the defence by a change like this, it could be something to try out in November.
It could well be the edge the Boks need against England and in the Rugby Championship in 2018. Maybe even for the World Cup in two years time.
Author: Malan Meyer