Much like himself, Kleyn says there's no free ride for Pollard into ...

14 days ago
Jean Kleyn says Handre Pollard's pedigree won't be enough to immediately slot back into the Springbok team.But he believes the experienced pivot will embrace the challenge of having to work himself back into contention.Kleyn insists he pays no attention to outside narratives on him switching allegiance from Ireland to South Africa. For more sports news, go to the News24 Sport front page.

Much like he had to prove himself to Springbok supporters after switching allegiance, so does Jean Kleyn believe Handre Pollard's pedigree alone isn't enough to see him coming straight back into the national team.

Much like himself, Kleyn says there's no free ride for Pollard into ... - Figure 1
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The World Cup-winning pivot of 2019 joins the camp in Paris on Monday after being officially confirmed as Malcolm Marx's replacement after the influential hooker suffered a tournament-ending knee injury, a decision that has polarised opinion because it leaves the Boks with only one specialist hooker in the squad.

Pollard, who missed out on the initial group because of a nagging calf injury, made a replacement appearance for his English club Leicester this past weekend, enough to convince team management of the need to recall him.

However, with Manie Libbok steadily growing at No 10 in his absence - culminating in a man of the match performance in the World Cup opener against Scotland - the 29-year-old has work to do.

"There's a player (Pollard) coming in. He's going to have to work his way back into the team, as everyone does," said Kleyn.

"It's not step in and take up a starting position. Everyone knows in this team you have to earn it, you have to work for it."

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The robust, towering second rower believes Pollard will ostensibly be doing just that and be prepared to put team interests first.

"Obviously he's prepared to do that. We are looking forward to having him. He's going to be a good credit to the team."

Talking about having points to prove, Kleyn - who represented the Irish at the 2019 showpiece and is one of the high-profile beneficiaries of World Rugby's change in regulations allowing players to change countries after a cool-down period of three years - notes he's not in the business anymore of trying to quell public perceptions about him as player.

Even more so about where his loyalty lies nowadays, especially with the Boks taking on selfsame Ireland in Paris on Saturday.

"I felt quite detached in terms of the feelings that come from representing two different countries at two different World Cups," said Kleyn.

"I'm a different person now, I was much younger back then and paid a lot more attention to what people said [when representing Ireland], especially in the media. It had an influence on me.

"I just play the game now for my people, the family, country and teammates. To me, these two World Cups are separate events. There's massive pride representing both. It's a fantastic honour."

And, by all accounts, the Irish, too, aren't preoccupied with his insider status, with Munster teammate Connor Murray hailing his impact for the country of his birth.

Jean Kleyn.

"He's a great fella. He has been an unbelievable servant to Munster, so you'd wish him all the best," said the talismanic Irish halfback.

"Jean has gone really well. For me, if I'm playing against him, I'll just try and avoid him. He's a physical man, he loves that kind of carry-on and he is very, very good at it.

"And we'll have a chat after."

Has Kleyn, belatedly, circled this weekend's clash on his calendar? 

"Up until now, I've only been circling the next day," he said with a chuckle.

"It's a big opportunity for us. Personally, I'm at a stage where I put personal victories aside. Personal battles are secondary to what the Boks achieve. If I play in this game, it will be great. Otherwise, I'd be more than happy just also help with the preparation." 

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