Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick believes that the battle of the boot between Handre Pollard and Owen Farrell will decide the World Cup final. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
On Thursday, Frans Steyn made the point that World Cup finals are won via a pragmatic approach. The team that takes its opportunities in front of goal, he said, and makes the fewest mistakes improves its chance of victory.
Steyn knows what he’s talking about. The centre kicked a long-range penalty goal to clinch the game – and the title – for South Africa in the 2007 decider. A penalty or a drop goal could be the difference in the final staged in Yokohama on Saturday.
‘We have paid attention to history,’ Stick said on Friday. ‘The 1995 final was decided by the battle between Joel Stransky and Andrew Mehrtens. 2003 was decided by the late drop goal by Jonny Wilkinson. We are well prepared for this game in that sense.
‘It we get the opportunity to score a try, we must take it. I just think that the kicking game is going to be so important. This is the way that World Cups are decided and this one will be determined by the golden boot-battle between Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard.
‘No pressure Polly,’ Stick added with a chuckle. Seated on Stick’s left, Pollard broke into a smile.
Pollard nailed a penalty goal in the 75th minute last week to earn the Boks a 19-16 win against Wales. On Friday, he explained that he lives for such moments and would be thrilled to receive another opportunity in the World Cup final against England.
‘I love that pressure,’ Pollard said. ‘That’s why you put in the hours, for that one moment. In a way, you prepare for that moment your whole life.
‘As a little boy you’re lining up kicks in the backyard. You’re telling yourself that this kick is to win the World Cup final.
‘The side that embraces the pressure and channels it in the right way will succeed tomorrow.’
Some have criticised the Boks for a lack of creativity as well as a reliance on their forwards and defence. Pollard shrugged when this was pointed out to him on Friday. He said that South Africa will persist with their game plan against England.
‘You say that we have a blueprint, but so do they. I don’t think that much will change in the space of a week. We’ll have a couple of trick plays maybe, but otherwise it will be much of the same.
‘If you win the gainline it makes it easier to implement your game plan. That’s our focus this week.
‘We’re drawing that line in sand. They’re going to try and cross it and we’re going to try and stop them.’
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets