Rassie Erasmus says the decision to send Handré Pollard back to New Zealand for the clash against the Highlanders was part of the national management plan. JON CARDINELLI reports.
More than a few eyebrows were raised this week when Pollard rejoined the Vodacom Bulls ahead of their final tour match against the Highlanders. The Bok flyhalf returned to South Africa two weeks ago to receive treatment for a calf injury. He was supposed to rest for two matches, as per the agreement between his franchise and the national side.
Bulls coach Pote Human said that the team needed Pollard to improve their chances of qualifying for the playoffs. In terms of the franchise’s ambitions, the move was justified, as Pollard played a key role in the Bulls’ draw with the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Was it the best decision with regard to the national team, though? Earlier this week, SARugbymag.co.za broke down Pollard’s game time over the past two seasons. The Bok flyhalf has played a lot of rugby for franchise and country.
This was put to Erasmus – the director of rugby as well as the Bok coach – at a press conference in Cape Town. The conference commenced a few minutes after the Bulls’ game concluded, and Erasmus gave the impression that he was happy with the result, as well as with the decision to fly Pollard back to New Zealand.
‘That is an example of us [SA Rugby] working with the franchises to get the best result,’ Erasmus said. ‘The Bulls needed him to improve their chances of staying in the competition. It also suits our purposes in terms of Handré’s match fitness.
‘If the Bulls get knocked out of the tournament, then he won’t play for six weeks leading up to the Rugby Championship,’ Erasmus explained. ‘We want guys like Handré to be sharp going into that tournament.’
‘I think that the franchises have been good in terms of managing players during the Super Rugby competition.’
Erasmus said he wasn’t too worried about the Boks’ current injury situation. It was recently confirmed that Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian Willemse will play no further part in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament. Warren Whiteley and Lood de Jager could be sidelined for even longer.
‘Lood and Warren are the only big names we’re worried about at this stage,’ he said. ‘They probably won’t be available for the start of the Rugby Championship.
‘Perhaps those other guys will be lacking a bit of match fitness. On the plus side, they could be back.’
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