Sunday, July 14, 2024
HomesportPollard is the Springboks’ man for the big occasion

Pollard is the Springboks’ man for the big occasion

PARIS : Flyhalf Handre Pollard was not in South Africa’s initial squad for the World Cup due to injury but having been selected in their starting XV for the final against New Zealand on Saturday, will be key in running the game for the Springboks in Paris.

Pollard kicked South Africa to success in Japan four years ago and is now aiming to help them claim back-to-back titles having been drafted into the squad following an injury early in the tournament to hooker Malcolm Marx.

He has a 100 per cent success rate from nine kicks at posts in France, including vital long-range efforts that helped knock out the hosts in the quarter-finals and England in their semi-final this past weekend.

He replaces the less experienced Manie Libbok in the side, the latter a more dynamic player with ball in hand but less accurate off the kicking tee than the uber-reliable Pollard.

“World Cup finals are not necessarily the most spectacular affairs. If you look at past games, it is always tight. It’s going to be a grind,” Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber told reporters on Thursday.

“There is a 60 per cent chance there will be rain either just before the game or in it. We had a semi-final where we were exposed to that. The kicking game and gaining territory will be will be important.”

That is a plan set up for Pollard, who admits it has been a rocky time since he lifted the trophy in 2019.

“It’s been an interesting four years,” Pollard said. “There has been a lot of highs and lows. Covid and my injuries disrupted my play here (for Montpellier in France), I would have loved to have been a part of it more.

“There were more ups and downs over the last few months, not being selected (for the original squad due to a calf problem) and coming back in, but that is all in the past now.”

South Africa’s decision to select seven forwards on their bench for Saturday backs up Nienaber’s belief in a tactical arm-wrestle, rather than a free-flowing exhibition of running rugby.

“I think our game model and the way we play suits World Cups pretty well,” Pollard said.

“We are comfortable in this environment. We just enjoy it, we enjoy the pressure. It’s a privilege to have this pressure on our shoulders, playing for our country.”

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