‘Pollard the first to acknowledge goal-kicking wasn’t on song’

Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids says there is full faith in Handre Pollard to rediscover his best goal-kicking form as this Saturday’s rematch against the Wallabies approaches.

One of the major issues identified in the wake of this past Sunday’s disappointing defeat by Australia was the lack of a backup goal-kicker.

Pollard missed three of seven shots at goal for a 57% strike rate. Damian Willemse replaced Pollard in the final 10 minutes of the match, but missed a conversion – his first goal attempt since November 2020 – that would have had the Boks sneaking away with a draw.

The Boks turned to veteran Morne Steyn when Pollard had another off day during the third Test against the British & Irish Lions and the 37-year-old memorably kicked the match and series winner.

Elton Jantjies, meanwhile, had a good outing against Argentina in Port Elizabeth, converting six of seven goal-kicks in a comprehensive 32-12 win.

After he helped the Bulls retain their Currie Cup title, there have been renewed calls for Johan Goosen to join the squad. Goosen kicked 37 of 43 attempts during the 2021 domestic championship for an 86% strike rate, but the quarantine requirements in Australia make it impossible for the 29-year-old to be called up at this point.

It could also be argued that the Bok bench needs a tweak. Jacques Nienaber named three replacement loose forwards against the Wallabies in a six-two split, but there is reason for one of those loose forwards to be swapped out for either a replacement flyhalf or a replacement lock.

At a virtual media briefing on Tuesday, Davids was asked about the widespread reaction to the Boks’ goal-kicking woes.

“That was something we did discuss and look at,” the Bok assistant coach admitted. “Handre is a high-quality professional, on and off the field. So, he was the first guy to put up his hand and say he didn’t perform [as well as he would have liked], and acknowledged he wasn’t on song with his goal-kicking.

“But we know what he can do, and he takes pride in the way he does things. So we’re confident he will correct that, and he’s working hard to improve specifically in that area. But, collectively, we’ll look at who’s in the squad, and then make a decision accordingly.”

The Bok team for this Saturday’s Test will be named at 11am (SA time) on Wednesday, and it will be interesting to see whether Jantjies or Steyn could come on to the bench.

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Craig Lewis