Pollard gets nod ahead of Steyn at flyhalf
Named ahead of veteran incumbent Steyn in South Africa’s Rugby Championship team against Argentina on Saturday
Handre Pollard of South Africa, who just two months ago was captaining South Africa’s under-20 team at the Junior World Championship. Photograph: Jason Oxenham/Getty Images
Inexperienced flyhalf Handre Pollard was named ahead of long-standing incumbent Morne Steyn in South Africa’s team for their opening match of the Rugby Championship against Argentina in Pretoria on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, who just two months ago was captaining South Africa’s under-20 team at the Junior World Championship, will win a second cap as coach Heyneke Meyer put Steyn, South Africa’s most capped flyhalf with 56 appearances, on the bench for the test at Loftus Versfeld.
Burly centre Damian de Allende will win his first cap while captain Jean de Villiers and prop Tendai Mtawarira were chosen despite long layoffs with injury.
De Allende will debut alongside De Villiers, who plays his first game after a two-month layoff with a knee injury.
“I’m very excited to see what Damian can do after he missed out on making his debut in June because of an injury,” said Meyer, who had hoped to blood the Stormers centre in June’s international wins over Wales and Scotland.
“Jean and Damian have played together before, albeit not this way around.
“But Damian has experience of playing outside centre from his junior days and he got his break at inside centre when he had to step up in Jean’s place.”
Mtawarira is back after six weeks out with a neck problem.
Pollard won his first cap in South Africa’s last international against Scotland in June after Steyn was withdrawn from the squad by his French club and both Pat Lambie and Johan Goosen were injured.
He has now effectively been catapulted from fourth in the pecking order to a starting berth.
“Handre also deserved another opportunity and it will be good to see how he combines with Jean and Damian,” said Meyer after the Junior Springbok skipper kicked 13 points on debut.
Lambie was not chosen in the match-day squad despite his return from a bicep injury and will play for the Sharks in a Currie Cup game match tomorrow to work on match fitness ahead of South Africa’s departure for the return match in Argentina on August 23rd.
There was no place for flanker Juan Smith, who was hoping for a return to test rugby after undergoing five operations on his Achilles tendon since his last cap in 2010.