Handré Pollard’s tactical masterclass on Saturday served as a highly encouraging start to the season for the Vodacom Bulls and the Springbok flyhalf, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Bulls were brutal and brilliant in equal measure during their 40-3 demolition of the hapless Stormers at Loftus.
Just after half-time, the Pretoria-based side had already effectively wrapped up the result when Jesse Kriel finished off the Bulls’ fourth try. The source had come from a deft chip kick over the defence from Pollard.
Loftus is jumping right now as Jesse Kriel combines with Handre Pollard for the @BlueBullsRugby 4th try of the afternoon!
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) February 16, 2019
It was one of the highlights in a Man of the Match performance from the pivot that will have both Bulls coach Pote Human and Bok boss Rassie Erasmus smiling from ear to ear.
The Bulls were simply merciless at Loftus. Even after establishing a 25-point lead they piled on the punishment by repeatedly instructing Pollard to kick for goal. Again and again and again and again.
While the Bulls asserted insufferable scoreboard pressure, Pollard looked as comfortable as ever from the kicking tee. It was an early-season reminder his mojo’s back in this key department.
Indeed, over the course of the clash at Loftus, the Bulls and Pollard literally kicked the Stormers into submission. According to Sanzaar’s statistics, the Bulls put 39 kicks into play, compared to just 18 from their opposition.
Pollard alone put boot to ball on 16 occasions, and it was the manner in which he manipulated space with kicks off both the right and even left foot that made for compelling viewing. It was another showcase of how an accurate kicking game can be used as a highly effective weapon.
Just recently, England outclassed Ireland with a kicking strategy that led to a stunning Six Nations victory, with coach Eddie Jones making a telling statement afterwards: ‘We just think that’s the way the game is going. If teams defend as they do now, there’s space in the back field. If they don’t fill it we’ve got an opportunity with our pace to convert that into points.’
If the Boks are to be competitive at the World Cup later this year, they will need a flyhalf general who is capable of controlling proceedings with brains, brawn and an educated boot.
On Saturday, Pollard pulled the strings with aplomb, and it’s the sort of form and finesse that he will hope to take all the way through to the World Cup in Japan.
Although there will be the usual Pollard vs Elton Jantjies debates, it’s worth taking note of the comments made by the Lions flyhalf in the latest issue of SA Rugby magazine.
Whether starting or finishing off a Test at flyhalf, Jantjies said he fully understood the value of both roles. Indeed, quite regularly during the 2018 Test season, Jantjies and Pollard dovetailed in an effective 10-12 combination, which may well be a strategy that the Springboks look to enforce in key World Cup games.
By all accounts, Jantjies has enjoyed a highly-productive pre-season training regime, and also showed some encouraging signs in the Lions’ impressive win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
Pollard and Jantjies will go head-to-head when the Lions and Bulls clash in just a couple of weeks. The good news is that both men look to be fit and in form, while increasingly boasting an ability to manage a match through the use of an astute boot.
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images