Johannesburg — South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard was left out of their 33-man squad for the Rugby World Cup due to a calf injury, it was announced on Tuesday.
Centre Lukhanyo Am (knee injury) and lock Lood de Jager (chest illness) were other notable absentees for the September 8-October 28 global showpiece event.
However, after the squad was announced at a Johannesburg TV studio, a press release said Pollard, Am and De Jager would be on stand by in case of injury or illness.
Better news for World Cup holders the Springboks is the inclusion of captain and flanker Siya Kolisi, who is expected to play again this month after recovering from a serious knee injury.
“This was one of the hardest selections we have ever had to make,” said head coach Jacques Nienaber.
Here it is, the #Springboks squad for #RWC2023 🏉🇿🇦
Full announcement: https://t.co/f7Ns708JcO #StrongerTogether
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 8, 2023
“Any of the 42-man training squad would do a great job, but injuries have played a part in the final selection and time, unfortunately, ran out for some real champions.
“However, we said from the outset that we wanted to name the best 33 players for the World Cup, and after giving 38 players a run in the last four Tests we are pleased with the make-up of the group.”
The absence of 65-time capped Pollard is a huge blow for the Springboks, who begin their title defence with a Pool B match against Scotland on September 10.
His injury in an English Premiership match in May leaves the Boks with only one specialist fly-half, Manie Libbok, in the squad.
While Libbok can be an extremely creative playmaker, he is an erratic goal-kicker, missing four of nine efforts in a warm-up victory over Argentina last weekend.
Pollard was flawless in the 2019 World Cup final triumph over England, succeeding with all eight kicks at goal for a personal tally of 22 points.
Siya Kolisi will captain the Springboks in their Rugby World Cup title defence in France. pic.twitter.com/RNNcs7HAyF
— eNCASport (@eNCASport) August 8, 2023
Like Pollard, outside centre Am would have been a certain starter against the Scotland in Marseille, but has been sidelined by an injury sustained in Buenos Aires last Saturday.
De Jager became ill last week in Argentina and his omission means places for both Marvin Orie and former Ireland lock Jean Kleyn, who were originally rivals for one place.
Johannesburg-born Kleyn qualified for Ireland through residency and, after not playing for his adopted country for three years, was eligible to change allegiance.
However, the likely starting second-row partnership against Scotland in Marseille will be Eben Etzebeth and RG Snyman.
Head coach Jacques Nienaber was expected to name three scrum-halves, but chose four – first choice Faf de Klerk plus Jaden Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach and Grant Williams.
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