Springboks

Bok assistant coach Stick stands firm on Jantjies/Pollard axis: We don't have first, second choices

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Elton Jantjies
Elton Jantjies
PHOTO: Steve Haag/Gallo Images
  • Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said they don't differentiate between pivots Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies.
  • Jantjies will be starting for the Springboks when they face Wales in the first of three Tests at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
  • Stick said they'll not be veering away from what has been functional for them in recent years.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said the interchangeability of Elton Jantjies and Handre Pollard is one of their best advantages they have in their Springbok group.

Jantjies will be playing in his 43rd Test when he rocks up against Wales on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld in Tshwane.

It will also be his 26th start in a Bok Test and having been with the Springboks longer from a preparation perspective ahead of the series, Stick said it was prudent they started with him.

Pollard joined the Bok camp on Sunday after completing a successful French Top 14 conquest with Montpellier.

Stick said they don't have a first choice/second choice scenario when it comes to selecting one of the two playmakers.

"Elton is aligned with what we want to achieve in terms of how we want to play the game, especially on attack and our kicking game," Stick said.

"Elton is the person who had more time in the training saddle, but for us, we don't have first or second choices regarding him and Handre.

"They are key players and even if Elton would wake up sick, we wouldn't hesitate to pick Handre and the opposite would be applicable.

"Both didn't play a lot of rugby this year, so they're not far from each other in terms of match-readiness, but since Elton was here earlier, it was fair for us to give him a go.

"We know his leadership skills and they're proven. He was a key player for the Lions when they were very strong in Super Rugby."

The Springbok attacking game has come in for consistent scrutiny, but with the high strike rate of wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe, Stick said he found the criticism to be unwarranted at times.

"Our wings have been in business. We've got a guy like Makazole Mapimpi who has been scoring tries regularly," Stick said.

"Cheslin Kolbe and Lukhanyo Am have been scoring brilliant tries, so we never coach our players not to attack space when it's there for them.

"We don't coach our players not to take the chances when they're there for them, but we do give them the freedom to play what is in front of them.

"Also, if you think you'll play touch rugby at Test level, you won't even come close to making the playoffs."

Stick though said he's been taking a lot of pleasure from how they Boks have varied their physical presence on the field, a strength they're not keen on compromising.

"I enjoy how we do things from a physical perspective and I enjoy how passionate we are when it comes to our kicking game," Stick said.

"I enjoy how we defend and how at times we score those brilliant tries. It's one of our strengths to be physical and you should never move away from your strengths."

Teams

South Africa

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux

Wales

15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar (captain), 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas 

Substitutes: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Owen Watkin

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