By Andy Capostagno
Chester Williams suffered a hamstring injury in a pre-tournament warm-up match against Samoa.
His replacement in the squad to contest the 1995 tournament was Pieter Hendricks. In the opening match against Australia, Hendricks ran around a bemused David Campese to score a key try.
But, after being swept up in a mass brawl against Canada, Hendricks was suspended from the tournament, and Williams returned ahead of the quarterfinal against Samoa. In that match he scored four tries; it was as if he had never been gone.
This Sunday, Handre Pollard will be expected to have a similar effect on Springboks fortunes against another South Sea island team, Tonga.
A calf injury that wouldn’t go away has kept Pollard out of the game for most of the year. But 30 minutes for Leicester against Sale Sharks a fortnight ago convinced South Africa’s coaching team that he was ready for international rugby.
A truly match-fit Pollard is a key cog in the Springbok machine. But he is hiding nothing against Tonga. If he misses a shot at goal, he will be the subject of derision, since his selection is all about putting pressure on the flyhalf incumbent, Manie Libbok.
Tonga will target Pollard and he can expect some big hits early on, which will test his fitness rather than the light jogging he has become used to in training.
If Pollard emerges smelling of roses, however, Libbok’s World Cup might just be over. There is no place for sentiment in the world of professional sport and the bald fact of the matter is that Pollard’s all-round game is far superior to Libbok’s.
Purely from a rugby perspective, the Boks should expect a bonus point win at something of a canter.
What they need to avoid is collisions of the kind likely to attract red cards, which is easier said than done against a Tongan side that specialises in exactly that.
Pictured above: Handre Pollard
Image source: File