Johannesburg (AFP) – Springbok Star fly-half Handre Pollard is likely to miss the Rugby Championship during July due to a calf injury, South Africa rugby director Rassie Erasmus said on Tuesday.
More cheerful news for the world champions is that utility back Damian Willemse has recovered from a knee injury and is available for the southern hemisphere competition.
South Africa play Australia in Pretoria on July 8, New Zealand in Auckland on July 15 and Argentina in Johannesburg on July 29.
“I think the only real concern will be Handre. Damian is ready to go,” the 2019 Rugby World Cup-winning coach told a press briefing in Pretoria.
“It is a calf injury which he re-injured while playing for Leicester Tigers,” said Erasmus, referring to Pollard.
“With a re-injury we are always a bit nervous and that is the reason why we have Elton (Jantjies) here — so that Handre can fully recover and we do not push him too early.”
Erasmus said the likeliest scenario was that Pollard would play in at least one of the three warm-up matches during August ahead of the World Cup in France the following month.
South Africa will face Argentina, Wales and New Zealand in preparatory matches before tackling Scotland in Marseille on September 10 in their first World Cup fixture.
They also meet Romania, Ireland, currently the top ranked Test team, and Tonga in Pool B with the section winners and runners-up advancing to the quarter-finals.
Assuming he fully recovers from his injury, Pollard is expected to start against Scotland, who are ranked fifth, one place below South Africa.
He was a pivotal figure in the 2019 World Cup final triumph over England in Japan, slotting 22 points in a flawless goal-kicking performance.
For the Rugby Championship — reduced from the traditional two rounds to one because of the World Cup — Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber have three fly-half options.
The Springboks are splitting their squad for the matches against Australia and New Zealand to avoid jet lag as Auckland is 10 hours ahead of Johannesburg.
Willemse, an inventive footballer but erratic goal-kicker, is likely to be in the Auckland advance party.
Should that happen, Manie Libbok could start against Australia with Jantjies, a late addition to the squad, on the bench.
Lock Eben Etzebeth and scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse, both recovering from shoulder injuries, should be available for the final Rugby Championship match, against Argentina at Ellis Park.
Source: France 24
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