Handre Pollard reported for duty at the Springboks camp in Paris on Monday as the teams coaches began to put the building blocks in place for their important Rugby World Cup Pool B encounter against Ireland on Saturday.
However, South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus made it clear that Pollard would have to get back up to speed with the team’s training sessions before he is selected to play.
“Handre has joined us, but he won’t come in (the selection mix) immediately unless we have injuries,” said Erasmus.
“He only returned to playing last Friday, and we must first get him up to speed with the training sessions and then we’ll get him back in the mix.”
Both Erasmus and Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids said they were expecting an epic encounter against Ireland, while Davids revealed that lock Eben Etzebeth, who was ruled out of last week’s match due to a knee injury, has been declared fit and will be considered for selection.
“We said initially that Eben would be out for seven to 10 days, and he’s recovered well and is reacting well to training, so he’ll be up for selection,” said Davids.
Looking ahead at Saturday’s match, Davids said: “Ireland are the No 1 team in the world and you don’t get there if you don’t perform well. They are well coached, and have a good attack and defensive system, so we have to be on par in all departments of our game if we want to get a good result this weekend.”
Erasmus, who spent two years in Ireland coaching Munster, echoed these sentiments: “We know what we have to do if we want to beat Ireland. We have to knuckle down, and give everything because they have a good attacking and defensive game and technically they are very sound.”
When quizzed about whether there could be surprises in their team selection this week with some suggesting that Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber could opt for only one or even no backline replacements on the bench, Erasmus said: “I don’t think we can go with an 8-0 split, but a seven-one split is definitely an option. A lot of teams are doing innovative things and sometimes they are doing things that was done many years ago, and people think it’s innovative.”
With the Ireland and the Springboks being tipped as the favourites in the pool to advance to the quarter-finals, Erasmus said the result of this match could have big implications for either side going into their final pool match.
“Scotland was a slippery game for us, and we knew it would be close,” said Erasmus.
“This game is very important for both teams. If things don’t go well for us, it makes the match against Tonga extremely important, and on the reverse side, if it doesn’t go well for Ireland then it makes their match against Scotland vital. So, we have to improve in every game we play.”
The Springboks will return to the training field on Tuesday to begin their preparations for the match.