Handre Pollard says the Springboks won’t get drawn into an unstructured, free-for-all battle against the All Blacks when the arch-rivals clash in Nelspruit on Saturday.
“We have a way of kicking and playing and we believe in that plan,” said Pollard in response to whether the world champions would stick to a conservative style of play against the traditionally more expansive All Blacks in the opening Test of the 2022 Rugby Championship at Mbombela Stadium.
“We’ll stick to our plan this weekend and see how things go after 20 minutes and if we have to adapt, we will. If the opportunities are there, we will certainly try to take them.”
The Bok pivot expects a tough challenge from the All Blacks playmakers as part of a dangerous backline.
“Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett both have the X factor, and they are experienced players,” said Pollard.
“They are a threat with their footwork and with ball in hand, so we’ll try to contain them as much as we can and do our best as a team on the day as well.
“It’s going to be a massive battle. You don’t want to give the All Blacks broken-field play, so the kicking game will be important, but it will come down to execution, and we’ll do the best we can to counter that.”
With plenty of media attention reserved for the All Blacks pack, following the appointment of new forwards coach Jason Ryan, Bok blindside flank Pieter-Steph du Toit stressed the importance of strong set pieces and breakdown play as the South Africans look to get the tournament off to a positive start.
“Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane are always good players in terms of playing to the ball, so we have to ensure that we are strong at the breakdowns,” the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year said.
“For us, the main objective is to play the way we train,” added Du Toit, who scored the Boks’ only try in their 2019 Rugby World Cup pool defeat by the All Blacks.
“The last time I played against them [Japan 2019], we lost, and it is a big focus point for us to make sure that it doesn’t happen again this time.
“It’s a good opportunity to show our supporters where we are now after 2019. Obviously, time has moved on and we have to adapt, but we are excited about the challenge.
“We last won against the All Blacks at home in 2014, so it is an honour to play for the Boks against them, we really want to make our supporters proud.”