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Pollard back and ready to lead Boks past Tonga into quarters

Marseille (AFP) – South Africa will have a familiar leader back at the helm when they take to the pitch in Marseille against Tonga on Sunday, Handre Pollard making his World Cup return as Springbok playmaker after a 13-month absence.

After their 13-8 loss to Ireland, the Boks stand second in Pool B and they will be seeking a bonus-point victory over the Tongans that would see them qualify as the group runners-up.

They will hope there is no repeat of the sole previous World Cup meeting between the two sides, when Jake White’s South Africa had to roll out the big guns from the bench to ensure a 30-25 pool victory in 2007 — before going on to clinch the Webb Ellis Cup.

“We’ve got certain things that we have to rectify that we couldn’t get right against Ireland,” said South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber, with goalkickers Manie Libbok and Faf de Klerk both misfiring against the Irish.

“In terms of our game plan, there are definitely some things that we will try a little bit differently in this game to see if it works.

“The result is very important but we need to fix that if we do get the opportunity to go into a quarter-final or knockout rugby. If we don’t fix those things we probably won’t last long in this competition.”

Pollard, back from injury and called up to the World Cup squad just last week, booted 22 points as the Springboks beat England 32-12 in the final of the World Cup four years ago.

He is one of 12 changes to the starting team that went down to Ireland.

Flanker Siya Kolisi, who will make his 50th appearance as captain, Eben Etzebeth and Jasper Wiese are retained for the must-win clash that will be crucial in determining which two teams from Pool B advance to the quarter-finals, and who they will play in the top-eight playoffs.

“My expectations for myself is just going to be to express myself and enjoy it knowing that it’s not going to be perfect,” said Pollard, with just 30 minutes under his belt in his comeback from a debilitating calf injury.

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu said matches against the likes of South Africa “are the games that get me out of bed”.

“You always want to test yourself against the best in the world. We’ve done that regularly so far and we’ve enjoyed the occasion.”

Kefu, who won the 1999 World Cup with Australia, added: “I suppose from a results point of view, it’s been disappointing so far.

“It’s certainly not the way we looked at it to turn out, 60 points by Ireland (a 59-16 defeat) and then 40-odd points by Scotland (45-17).”

Kefu has made three changes to the starting lineup, Semisi Paea starting at No 8 in place of the suspended Vaea Fifita.

Anzelo Tuitavuki will make his World Cup debut on the left wing, with Fine Inisi starting on the right in the two other changes.

Former All Blacks Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa and Augustine Pulu all start while former Wallaby forward Adam Coleman is named on the bench.

Tonga wrap up their World Cup campaign against Romania in Lille on October 8.

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