CRAIG LEWIS takes a closer look at the class acts of the Springboks’ halfback pairing this past Saturday, with Handre Pollard and Faf de Klerk creating try-scoring opportunities with expert kicks.
In the second Test between the Boks and British & Irish Lions, very little separated the sides going into the second half, but two moments of brilliance from De Klerk and Pollard effectively sealed the result.
The try created by Pollard in the 45th minute is particularly a thing of beauty. Perfectly set up with the flyhalf positioned just behind a three-man pod of forwards, Pollard picks the play and the timing perfectly.
Both before and as he catches the ball, Pollard is scanning the Lions defence, searching for where the space is.
De Klerk’s long pass puts the pivot in a position where he spots that there are four forwards tracking across on defence, with Anthony Watson isolated and on the move forward after the Lions wing spots the threat of Cheslin Kolbe, who has come around off his right wing.
It’s in that instance that Pollard feigns to pass, and all in the same motion instead drops the ball on to his boot for a pinpoint crosskick that finds Makazole Mapimpi, who darts in on the angle, beating Watson and a flailing Stuart Hogg.
In the reverse angle, you can see again how the Lions defence has been compressed in midfield, and how Pollard expertly identifies the acres of space out wide.
His dummy pass is crucial in continuing to draw Watson up into the line before delivering a perfectly weighted kick off the outside of his right foot.
Some 15 minutes later, it’s the turn of De Klerk to bury the game in favour of the Springboks with a classy piece of play of his own.
What De Klerk has become exceptional at over the years is loudly and clearly communicating with players around him, while in other instances it’s about the more subtle communication of hand signals and even head movements.
Just before half time in the second Test, the Springboks had possession around the halfway mark, and you can hear De Klerk on more than one occasion scanning the field for any opportunities, but at the same time yelling out to his teammates for direction on whether to kick out or continue playing.
And in the lead-up to the Boks’ second try, you can see De Klerk playing heads-up rugby. As the maul powers forward, the scrumhalf casts his gaze towards the space in-goal.
He repeatedly communicates with Damian de Allende outside him and, when the timing is right, both De Allende and Lukhanyo Am hit the line at pace as De Klerk pops a grubber through the defence.
Don’t overlook the fact that De Klerk kicks with his less-favoured right foot and actually threads the ball through five Lions players.
These two sensational pieces of play from Pollard and De Klerk, which led to game-changing tries, once again underscored their value to the Bok cause.