PARIS (Reuters) - Flyhalf Handre Pollard will start his first test in over two years against France on Saturday, having been brought into the side to add some direction to what at times has been an aimless back line this year.
Pollard has overcome injury and illness that saw him come close to losing an arm to regain the number 10 jersey from the inconsistent Elton Jantjies, as the Springboks seek to bounce back from another humiliation following their record 38-3 loss to Ireland this past weekend.
He is one of 10 changes by coach Allister Coetzee, who knows he will edge closer to the exit door with another limp display.
“I’ve always been a leader. It’s something you have or you don’t,” Pollard told reporters in Paris this week. “That said, I believe everyone in this side does. You don’t become a Springbok if you don’t have the ability to take charge.”
Pollard believes the Boks need a back-to-basics approach to turn around their fortunes, something that worked well when they comprehensively beat an injury-hit France 3-0 in a home series in June.
However, that good start to the year rapidly deteriorated, the Springboks recording just two wins against Argentina in seven tests since then.
“In these conditions you have to show some calm. We have to be clinical and do the basics better than we did last week. Then the moments of magic will come.
“We’re still hurting. We’re going to take that hurt into this weekend’s game.
“A lot of the guys in really important positions were experiencing northern hemisphere conditions for the first time last week. We have learned from that and the adjustment has been plain in the last few days of training.”
It has been another poor year for the Boks following their worst ever campaign in 2016 when they lost eight of their 12 tests.
Their results this year have included another record 57-0 humiliation at the hands of New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, the worst loss in their history.
Pollard says they can look to no-one for help but themselves ahead of the battle with France.
“Some guys like to be back home where they can take motivation from everyone there. There’s no one here now, though. There’s no shoulder to cry on. We have to do it ourselves.
“We have to do it for each other and back each other. It’s probably the toughest challenge in the northern hemisphere, to come back after a game like last week. But I want to embrace that.”
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Jon Boyle