Vice-captain Handre Pollard has come out in defence of the under-fire Springbok team, while subtly taking a swipe at Australia’s off-the-ball tactics in Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test.
The Springboks were subjected to a second consecutive defeat against the Wallabies when they lost 30-17 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.
The result all but ended South Africa’s Rugby Championship title aspirations and brought an end to their status as the No 1 team in the World Rugby rankings.
Perhaps even more unsettling for coach Jacques Nienaber is the manner in which the Boks lost. They produced a dreadful display, one the coach has emphatically labelled as their worst performance since 2018.
For the second week in a row, the Springboks found themselves on the wrong end of the referee’s whistle because of poor discipline. They again conceded two yellow cards.
Defensive errors were again at the forefront of the defeat as the Springboks missed a total of 19 tackles, bringing the total to 30 missed tackles in two games against the Wallabies. And to add insult to injury, they were outmuscled and outplayed at the breakdown.
But despite cracks clearly beginning to show in the Boks’ armour, Pollard remained adamant that there was no attitude problem within the Bok squad.
“It definitely is not an attitude problem. If everyone misses one tackle that is 23 tackles missed. It happens, but it’s not good enough and it is not to our standard, but it is not an attitude problem,” Pollard said sternly.
“They (the Wallabies) had plans in place, as did we, and they executed their plan and we didn’t. It’s small margins in Test rugby. Small margins can turn into a 30-17 loss. We just weren’t clinical enough tonight.”
The Boks’ attack strategy has also been heavily criticised, as they were outscored four tries to one. But Pollard felt it was the best attacking game the team has produced this year.
“It was our best attacking performance of the year in terms of finding space and getting the ball into space but we just weren’t clinical enough,” he said. “We didn’t capitalise on our opportunities and every time we got into their half or their 22, we just lost the ball too often in contact, passes didn’t stick.”
“Attack-wise, the plan was perfect but those last passes were just something we didn’t hold onto today and that was what let us down.”
The 27-year-old flyhalf commended Australia for doing their homework on the Boks, but added that they also got away with using improper tactics throughout the two Test matches.
“The Wallabies did a brilliant job in terms of analysing us, but they are also very street smart and the referees don’t see everything,” said Pollard.
“We prepped the refs on what the Wallabies were doing last week but it is difficult to see a lot of the stuff that happens off the ball. The Wallabies are very good at it and they get away with it. We don’t coach it or train that way to be able to handle it.”
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