After an 18 month absence from the international arena, the Springboks are set to play their last test of the 2021 season against England on Saturday. Whilst one could write about the 10 key things the Boks must get right, its far more simple than that. In most positions, man for man on present form alone, the Springboks should edge England this weekend. However, the most crucial selection of Jacques Nienaber's reign so far awaits him today. Who will start at 10?
In 2019 this would have been a no brainer. Handre Pollard has been the Springboks primary general at 10 for a number of years now, but his constant struggles from the kicking tee have haunted the Boks this year. Pollard boasts a robust running game and is a vital cog in the Boks physical defensive line, but is that enough?
The Twickenham game is set to be a great spectacle as the two World Cup finalists get a rematch of the game, just more than two years later. The English are going to come out firing, looking to avenge their defeat, whilst the Boks will be looking to get the double and truly lay down a marker before France in 2023. So in such a big fixture, as is always the case, the game will come down to the smallest of margins. Converting pressure into points will determine who the winner is on the day.
Pollard has left a lot of points out on the field this year and narrow losses to the Lions, Australia and the All Blacks could have gone the other way had one or more kicks made it between the uprights. Elton Jantjies is the other option at 10 and after his heroics against the All Blacks, is pressing to be selected more consistently. He got the start against Scotland on the weekend, but didn't really take control of the game whilst he was on the pitch.
Whilst Jantjies has put in his best and most consistent performances for the Lions, he hasn't always emulated that success at international level. It is for this reason I don't believe he did enough against the gallant Scots to retain the starting birth. The other options at fly half are Frans Steyn and Damian Willemse. Neither are really in the Bok plans for playmaker, however I have no doubt Steyn would put in one hell of a showing there too.
England are likely to deploy Marcus Smith in what will be his 4th England test, along with Owen Farrell unfortunately out injured. This is a strong combination that will offer England many options both in the air as well as with ball in hand. England are likely to deploy a running game in the hope they can get around the Boks powerful pack and that's where the Boks will be looking to isolate them and to convert turn overs into points.
Whether its Elton or Handre that is selected to start, they will prove to be the most crucial element of a Springbok win. If the opportunity for points is missed too often, the Boks could find their way to the wrong side of the score line in this one. The forwards should have more than enough fire power to subdue their former coaches new pack, but will their flyhalf be able to capitalise with the boot?
Kick off is 17:15 on Saturday, and I expect the only changes to be Reinach at 9, Nkosi at 14 and Pollard at 10. The opportunity to blood the likes of Williams, Fassi and Dweba have gone a begging on this tour and they will have to wait until the 2022 season to put their hands up now.