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.

Owen Farrell fills the 12 role beautifully for England and the Lions. © Matthew Impey/Wiredphotos.co.uk
Owen Farrell fills the 12 role beautifully for England and the Lions.
© Matthew Impey/Wiredphotos.co.uk

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.

Ma'a Nonu transformed his game to be a kicking option. Pollard is already there in that regard. Copyright Photo: Libby Law / www.Photosport.nz
Ma’a Nonu transformed his game to be a kicking option. Pollard is already there in that regard.
Copyright Photo: Libby Law / www.Photosport.nz

More Options

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.

Photos: www.photosport.nz

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Author: Malan Meyer

7 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Malan great article some real food for thought.

    I am not a big fan of playing players out of position. So the question for me should be: Are there no other number 12’s that would be better in the position. If the answer is no then it makes sense.

    Or is Handre a better No 10 than Elton or even a Curwin.

    Would a Frans Steyn or a Rohan Janse van Rensburg be a better suited for a center position with Jan Serfontein.
    I think Handre needs a Super Rugby Season to sharpen his game, even after not playing for so long he brought that x-factor to the test, that could be even better with another Super Rugby Season, personally I think he would be best at 10.

    Also with the game plan from the last New Zealand game having some big 110Kg centers would give us some go forward ball, plus Frans and Rohan play very direct.

    But very interesting idea. I think Handre is a very special player so he needs to be included.

    • Thanks Donovan for the comment!
      Heyneke Meyer once hinted that Pollard could be a good center and he has bulked up considerably in the last few months. The reason for my thinking was looking for a solution for the current problems in the Bok-game. In my opinion the Boks are struggling to exploit space in the outside channels and the exit-strategy is a bit predictable.

      I believe Elton Jantjies was SA-Rugby’s Super Rugby Player of the Year for a reason. He is very good at creating oppurtunities for players outside him, but he seems rushed and panicked when confronted with a rush defense around the ruck. Pollard on the other hand thrives in that channel.
      Jantjies could maybe have the same effect a Willie le Roux had in the June tests of 2014, keeping the last three defenders on their toes and putting Skosan, Leyds and Coetzee away. He is also one of the best “kick-passers” in the southern hemisphere and the use of cross-kicks in the attack just adds to the options.

      I think it also comes down to what you define as the roles of the players in the backline. With the current attacking pattern and the more recent selections among the forwards with Du Toit at flank, do the Boks need another meter making ballcarrier among the backs? Or do they need more playmakers in the areas where it is the most difficult to defend?
      I am less thinking about a “center combination” and more about an “inside channel combination” with Cronje, Pollard, Serfontein and the tight-forwards and an “outside channel combination” with Jantjies, the back-three and a loose-forward.

      • Hi Malan
        I like your thinking.
        Pollard is such a great player that he would give Jantjies and Serfontein some freedom. Jantjies always plays better when he has time and freedom to just play, where he makes the decisions and controls the game the way he wants. I have always rated Serfontein and with better ball I think he will really start to shine.

        It is interesting cant wait for the team selection I think the end of year tour will be very entertaining.

    • Hi Donovan. I think Serfontein should no longer be selected for SA, now that he has moved overseas. Locally based players such as Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am, Rohan Janse van Rensberg etc. should be given first preference. Pollard has the potential to be easily the best flyhalf in the world so I think that SA need him to play 10. I don’t really rate Jantjies as an international 10 anyway because he seems to make mistakes that hurt his team and he doesn’t have the flair to cover them up with brilliant plays like a Beauden Barrett.
      Serfontein used to be a silky player but he has been moulded into a brute-force player which doesn’t suit his innate skills. I think he should be replaced with de Allende, who is naturally a physical, destructive player. At 13, Lukhanyo Am would be the best option because of his elusive running game, while his defense and ability to win turnovers is second to none. Therefore a 10-12-13 combination of Pollard, de Allende and Am would give SA a world class 10, a hard running 12 and a more elusive, athletic 13. It could be an ideal combination. The younger less experienced van Rensberg could then be brought off the bench.

  2. Definitely not ridiculous, Malan!

    First, let’s look at England. I don’t think Eddie considers either Farrell or Ford a complete ten. Farrell is world class in many ways, but I suspect that Jones doesn’t think that he can get a backline moving in the way he wants. Ford is better at this, but he can be got at and isn’t as reliable tactically or with the tee.

    Farrell covers his weaknesses and is big enough to play centre. Between them they are a complete ten.

    There are a lot of parallels with Elton and Handre. Pollard has X factor and a great boot, but I find him too individualistic as a ten and not good at getting a backline moving. However he would be a steadying influence for Jantjies, doing some of the bread and butter jobs more reliably and leaving him free to do add real value with his passing game.

    It might just work!

  3. Love it! I’m a massive fan of the 2 10’s at 10-12, and have been for a long time. I think Pollard ticks all the boxes to play at 12 and would love to see that axis with Jantjies.

    Let’s see what they do come Autumn.

  4. Loving this thread. I really like the idea of Pollard at 12, and think its a very similar dynamic to the England 10-12.

    You have Jantjes as Ford, the natural instinctive, creative and can unlock defences 10. Both of whom can ignite backlines. Earlyish in their career, growing in abilities and gaining the ability to cope under pressure. Slowly but surely.

    You then have Pollard and Farrell, Both 10s. Not necessarily as creative or instinctive as their International 10 partners. But both solid, know what to look for in defences, can step in and give advice and take a little weight of their 10’s shoulders. Allowing them to play more carefree and in the ways that suit their games. I’ve written a huge article on the 10-12 axis thats part of a series that’ll be released come 6N’s time. But they have a steady hand on the tiller, if the 10 needs help or gets a little excited. Pollard strikes me as that sort of player, and provides another option on the other side of the ruck, as well as a wider play capacity. I don’t think its AC’s style. But would like to see it for the Rugby.

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