I am sure many a Springbok fan was just as shocked as I was this morning when I saw that both Lukhanyo Am and Handre Pollard had been released from the Springbok squad due to injuries sustained in last weeks tussle with the Wallabies. This is a cause for major concern as these players ply their trade in the positions we have the least depth possible.
Am and Pollard both sustained knee injuries and will return to their club sides, the Sharks and Leicester Tigers respectively. Further medical treatment and advice will be sought at domestic level but the players are unlikely to feature in the upcoming fixtures against Los Pumas, having already missed out on selection for the return test against the Wallabies this weekend. The loss of these two players is massive in the context of the Bok set up, for varying reasons.
“It’s always unfortunate to lose players in a squad, but this opens the door for other players to step in and showcase what they can do in those positions. We will now have 32 players in camp and with Elton expected to recover for the matches against Argentina and players such as Andre and Jesse and Frans all being capable centres, we are well covered."
Pollard only recovered from a previous knee injury shortly before the international season, making a handful of appearances off the bench for previous club side, Montpellier before linking up with the Boks. The severity of the injury has not yet been revealed, however releasing such a vital member of the squad doesn't paint much of a positive picture regarding the prognosis.
Pollard has started every test since Bloemfontein in the 10 jersey and the managements over reliance on him, combined with their refusal to build depth has come back to haunt them. In one fowl swoop, the Boks lost both Pollard and Elton, the only two fly half's used under the coaching regime. Damian Willemse has now been called upon to run the show at 10, but this can't gloss over the real issue. Flyhalf is such a crucial position for any team and now we sit in a position where someone like Manie Libbok who could have stepped up, could have learnt the ropes over the last 3 months, has been sitting at home twiddling his thumbs.
Then Lukhanyo Am, he is without a doubt the best Springbok in the side at the moment. Just as crucial to the Bok cause on attack as he is on defense, he has been sublime this season and is likely already in consideration for World Player of the year. The loss of his talent can not be understated. This is another area where the Bokke have failed dismally at building depth. Kriel is the only player truly capable of donning 13 and will do so this weekend, even if his credentials are in doubt. Who next though? No one is the answer. The Boks have De Allende, Esterhuizen, Willemse and Steyn to cover 12, but there is no natural 13 anywhere near the set up currently and this could be the decision on which Nienaber will hang his hat come December.
The collective decision making of the Springbok management must again be called into question. Decisions like selecting 5 -6 scrumhalf's or the injured Johan Goosen 'being aligned', at the expense of Libbok, none of these selections are going to help them with the injury crisis they now face. If Elton is to be entrusted with the 10 Jersey for the remainder of the Championship or even the year, as well as Kriel at 13, we are in for a long season still as the likes of France and Ireland start to lick their lips.