Handre Pollard says that the Springboks will have to improve in the coming years to retain their No 1 ranking. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Boks went into the 2019 World Cup as dark horses for the title. The All Blacks were the favourites, while many felt that Ireland, England and even Wales stood a better chance of stopping New Zealand from claiming their third straight crown.
The Boks were the underdogs right up to the final. Most were surprised when Rassie Erasmus’ charges blew England away to win the Webb Ellis Cup and finish the year at No 1 in the World Rugby rankings.
Pollard told SA Rugby magazine that things will be different in 2020 when the Test season eventually resumes. The hunters have suddenly become the hunted.
‘Will we be the most targeted team in Test rugby? Everyone still wants to beat the All Blacks, because they’ve been the best team in Test rugby for ages. On the other hand, a team is always going to lift its game when they are playing against the world champions. They want to measure themselves against you and to say they’ve beaten you.
‘I’ve no doubt that will happen when Test rugby eventually resumes. Further down the line, that British & Irish Lions series is going to massive,’ Pollard said.
The Springbok flyhalf spoke to SA Rugby magazine from his home in Montpellier. Apart from a brief stint in Japan, the sojourn in France marks his first significant venture outside South Africa. He was previously at the Vodacom Bulls for seven seasons between 2013 and 2019.
As the 26-year-old explains, the move to Montpellier has helped him to reset and reassess after a season of unprecedented success with the Boks.
‘I feel like the whole experience is exactly what I needed. The local competition over here is incredibly tough and that has been a good challenge. The lifestyle is very different and the seven or eight South Africans at the club have been helping me with the language. It’s not easy, but I’ve found it stimulating.
‘I enjoy new challenges. I don’t want to find myself in a situation where I’m stagnating or becoming complacent.’
Prior to the lockdown in France, Pollard and his wife took the opportunity to explore several European countries and embrace the local culture. He may not have enjoyed such an opportunity if he was still playing in South Africa.
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‘That is definitely one of the drawcards. I’m here to play rugby and that is my focus. That said, we do have an opportunity to hop on a train or plane and explore some incredible places that are just a couple of hours away.
‘When you’re in South Africa, you feel like you’re a world apart. You wouldn’t get the chance to explore Lapland or drive to Switzerland or Barcelona on your day off, or possibly ever.’
France lifted their lockdown last week, and the Pollards took the chance to get out and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air in Montpellier.
‘It’s been pretty intense, being cooped up for 50-odd days. When the lockdown ended, my wife and I took a stroll down the road and there were a few people out and about. I even got a chance to play some golf again. It was good to see that spirits are so high.’
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