South African rugby received a massive setback on Tuesday as Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard was ruled out of the entire Vodacom Super Rugby tournament and the June tests against Ireland.
Pollard tore cruciate knee ligaments at training at Loftus Versfeld in a freak accident where there wasn’t a player nearby him.
The Bok flyhalf was just beginning his recovery after a shoulder injury and would have been reassessed in a fortnight’s time to return to play, but a simple passing exercise without contact turned into a nightmare for coach Nollis Marais.
Marais has already lost Deon Stegmann to injury and is waiting on news on fellow loose forward Lappies Labuschagne, who tore ligaments in his ankle in training in the team’s pre-season camp in Zimbabwe.
But the news on Pollard – the regular vice-captain of the team – is a devastating blow for the Pretoria team’s hopes in this year’s competition.
“It was bad luck, nothing more,” coach Marais sighed, “We were doing a normal drill with passing and he had just began to make contact with the tackle bags in his recovery yesterday as part of his rehab. We did a non-contact session and he was looking like his old self, cutting the line and looking like a Springbok again.
“Then all of a sudden, with nobody within five metres of him, he pulled up. We hoped it wasn’t worse, but it is really devastating news.”
It was initially hoped that Pollard would have been out with a lateral strain, but further scans revealed the worse, meaning the Bok flyhalf will be out for between six and nine months and will definitely play no part in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
It also means that whoever is appointed as the new Springbok coach will have a dilemma on his hands as Pollard was the incumbent during the Rugby World Cup last year.
All eyes will now be on Cell C Sharks captain Pat Lambie’s injury, which could keep him out for up to 10 weeks. Lambie would be the favourite to take the number 10 jersey, should he return to fitness, for the Irish test series.
But in a position were options are few, and many sides have young up and coming players in the 10 jersey, the only other candidate at this stage is likely to be Elton Jantjies, should he recapture the form that took him so close last year.
Jantjies was unlucky not to make the team to the World Cup and with Lambie will be closely watched to hopefully see both standing when the team for the Irish tour in June is chosen.