Handré Pollard says the Springboks have to be prepared to match the intensity and accuracy of a fired-up All Blacks side this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Pretoria.
On Tuesday, temperatures rose to around 30°C in Pretoria. In the sweltering heat, the Boks began training at 11:30am. Nearly two hours later, they were still at it.
Right from the outset of the session, there was a real purpose about the Springboks as they intensified preparations ahead of this weekend’s highly anticipated rematch against the All Blacks.
On 15 September, the Boks defied all expectations to claim their first win in New Zealand since 2009. However, you get the sense this week that this memory is furthest from their minds.
Instead, the Springboks’ sole focus is on ensuring that they find the means to maintain the upward curve that spiked in Wellington, solidified in Port Elizabeth, and which now comes under the spotlight once again.
‘Ag, people will have [great] expectations now,’ Pollard commented with a wry smile when asked whether the pressure would be any different following the shock result in New Zealand.
‘It was a big win of course, and we now know what we are capable of, which is good. But we have to be consistent and capable of performing at that level week in and week out, which is our challenge now.’
As much confidence as the Boks have taken from the last result over the All Blacks, Pollard said they knew exactly what sort of response it would incite from the Rugby Championship winners.
‘It’s pretty obvious, if you go back in history, every time the All Blacks lose a Test match, they come back firing at 120%, especially the next time they play the same team. We know they will be even more accurate and physical, but we’re at home, and it’s up to us to match that.’
Understandably, the Boks are sure to pick their strongest available lineup, with a couple of notable changes set to see fit-again Damian de Allende resume his role at No 12, while Francois Louw will slot into the back row after his return from Bath.
Again, there is the possibility that Pollard could shift to inside centre during the latter stages of the clash if specialist flyhalf Elton Jantjies comes off the bench, and it is a new role that the 24-year-old said he was quite happy to fulfil.
‘Lately I’ve just been tackling when I go to 12,’ Pollard said with a chuckle on Tuesday. ‘Of course I’m a flyhalf first and foremost, but I think it’s good to be able to shift to centre if the situation calls for it. It’s something I actually enjoy being able to do, and the coaches have been backing me to move there late in the game, and I quite enjoy the physicality of that role.’
Regardless of that, it’s the Bok No 10 jersey that Pollard prizes most, and the Bulls pivot said he was just looking forward to the occasion of running out in front of a capacity crowd at Loftus.
‘It’s great being fit again and playing a lot of rugby, I was out of action for basically two years [with injury] and you miss these occasions and big Test matches. So I’m loving every moment of being here and I just want to go out and execute for my team.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 3, 2018
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images