Wednesday, 10 September 2014

UPDATE 1-Rugby-Meyer throws rookie flyhalf Pollard into deep end

* Three-cap Pollard preferred to Steyn

* Captain De Villiers to celebrate 100th (Adds details, quotes)

WELLINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) – South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has thrown rookie Handre Pollard to the wolves, naming him starting flyhalf against the All Blacks for their pivotal Rugby Championship clash in Wellington on Saturday.

With the tournament hanging in the balance after three rounds, the promise of three-cap Pollard has been preferred to the lethal boot and experience of seasoned flyhalf Morne Steyn, who has been dumped from the team altogether.

The only omission from the matchday squad that lost a cliff-hanger 24-23 to Australia in Perth last weekend, Steyn may have some cause to feel aggrieved after a solid performance against the Wallabies.

Steyn booted six straight penalties and missed a solitary conversion on his recall to the team after being sidelined for the first two matches of the four-nation southern hemisphere tournament.

“We felt that Handre has the right skill set for how we want to approach this game,” said Meyer of the 20-year-old, who started at 10 in the Springboks’ opening two wins of the Championship against Argentina.

“He played well in the three tests that he started. A couple of months ago, he was named the World Junior Player of the Year after some very impressive performances here for the Junior Springboks and I’m sure he can build on that.

“It’s also good for continuity to have an almost unchanged side. We know where we made mistakes last weekend and the players now have an opportunity to rectify those against the toughest opponent in world rugby.”

Although Dan Carter is sidelined with a broken leg, Pollard will have a challenge on his hands going head-to-head with either Aaron Cruden or another rising talent in Beauden Barrett, who performed well at 10 against Argentina.

Captain Jean de Villiers will celebrate his 100th test cap for South Africa at inside centre in the match at Wellington Stadium, joining centurions Victor Matfield (114), John Smit (111), Percy Montgomery (102) and Bryan Habana (100).

Meyer paid a glowing tribute to 33-year-old De Villiers as a “true ambassador for South Africa”.

“When the big names in South African rugby are mentioned, Jean will forever be among them,” said the coach.

“He’s showed a lot of character and resilience to get here and to me, those are things that set him apart. Jean is not only an extremely good rugby player, but he’s also one of the greatest captains I’ve ever worked with.”

South Africa lie second in the four-nation southern hemisphere championship behind the All Blacks after three rounds but can leapfrog their opponents with victory in Wellington.

They will, however, need to snap a four-game losing streak against the world champions as well as end a five-year winning drought against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.

Team: 15-Willie le Roux; 14-Cornal Hendricks, 13-Jan Serfontein, 12-Jean de Villiers (captain), 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Marcell Coetzee, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Bismarck du Plessis, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Marcel van der Merwe, 19-Lood de Jager, 20-Warren Whiteley, 21-Francois Hougaard, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Damian de Allende. (Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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UPDATE 1-Rugby-Meyer throws rookie flyhalf Pollard into deep end

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