England vs South Africa: A closer look at the Marcus Smith vs Handre Pollard fly-half battle

Fly-halves Marcus Smith (left) and Handre Pollard will go head to head when England play South Africa

England and South Africa will meet for the first time since the 2019 World Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Here, we examine the fly-half duel between Marcus Smith and Handre Pollard that will help shape the contest.

Marcus Smith – England

Club: Harlequins


Position: Fly-half

Age: 22

Caps: 4

Debut: v USA, 2021

Height: 5ft 7in

Weight: 12st 13lbs

Points: 51 (Tries 2, Conversions 19, Penalty 1)

The rising star of English rugby has barely put a foot wrong in his young Test career but against South Africa he faces his greatest challenge yet. Smith has made his name through the attacking flourishes that swept Harlequins to the Gallagher Premiership title last season, but on Saturday he will need to demonstrate the strides taken in his game management. The Springboks will unleash a barrage of kicks and Smith must orchestrate the response, while also operating in the teeth of their blitz defence. There will be no Owen Farrell to assist with the generalship, but Smith has shown previously that he has the steel to match his genius.

Handre Pollard – South Africa

Club: Montpellier

Position: Fly-half

Age: 27

Caps: 59

Debut: v Scotland, 2014

Height: 6ft 2in

Weight: 15st 4lbs


Points: 586 (Tries 6, conversions 83, penalties 126, drop-goals 4)

A very different fly-half to Smith and one ideally suited to South Africa’s forward-orientated, smothering gameplan that was enough to topple the Lions during the summer. Cobus Reinach will provide imagination at scrum-half, while Pollard directs the world champions around the field with a siege-gun boot. Unlike Smith, the France-based playmaker is also a physical presence who can carry into the heart of the opposition midfield, offering a gainline threat. Defensively he is very solid and, while armed with a a range of passing, it is his game management that stands out.

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