‘Pollard is the real deal’

What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springboks' loss to the All Blacks in Wellington.

'This was an absolutely wonderful Test match. It was what all rugby players and supporters want to see or be involved in. The referee [Frenchman Jérôme Garcès] was outstanding in the game, absolutely clear, no controversial incidents and no yellow cards.

'The Springboks played by far their best match this year. A lot of it had to do with the positive mindset that came into the team from the selection of Handré Pollard. We had one exit from our half where we won the ball on our line and played the ball to Duane Vermeulen who took it up. He then gave the ball to Pollard who found Willie le Roux, we ran it out of our 22, and only then did Pollard kick the ball. We took the ball through phases, played into space, before going to the boot.

'This Test cleared up a number of issues for Heyneke Meyer. First of all, Pollard is definitely the real deal and hopefully he'll get a run right through until the end of the year. Secondly, Jan Serfontein looked much more comfortable at No 12, where he had a brilliant game on defence. With Jean at 13, we didn't miss his captaincy, and his ability to understand the defence was crucial today.

'It seemed like Heyneke had made a promise to Bismarck du Plessis that he would get the last 20 minutes. Perhaps it was a pre-call that was decided prior to the game. It happened at Ellis Park last year, where the Springboks were going for a pushover try and suddenly Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis were taken off the field. This time it was Bismarck who came on for Adriaan Strauss, who had a good game. His understanding of the lineout calls and his scrummaging was outstanding.

'I thought they should've left it until the 70th minute when he really is buggered, because from the 60th minute until the 75th minute we conceded five turnovers [three lineouts and two scrums] to the All Blacks. It allowed them to control that period of the game.

'Vermeulen was absolutely immense today playing against someone like Kieran Read, who showed just what an outstanding player he was. But Vermeulen was by no means overshadowed. His work around the tight-loose, his driving play, his organisation at the back of the scrum was superb.

'Jean de Villiers made two very brave calls that very nearly won the game for us. The pressure at the end was all on New Zealand and it was such positive rugby, which was great to see. We went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks today in every aspect of the game.

'Perhaps the only issue was that they do exploit turnovers better than we do. On a couple of occasions we turned the ball over, got forward momentum and we kicked that dreaded box kick again. When you're going forward, keep the ball in hand, make the defence make their tackles, and perhaps you get the penalty that allows us to get three points or to kick into the corner. We kicked turnover ball far too quickly during the second half. Francois Hougaard made the wrong decision on a number of occasions. It's difficult for him because he's been playing the Blue Bulls game plan, which is “get on the front foot, transfer the pressure through kicking”, as opposed to playing what is in front of you.

'You never saw an aimless up-and-under from the All Blacks. You saw chips into space. The kick over the top from Aaron Smith landed on grass and Willie le Roux had to run it out. We had plenty of occasions when we were going forward and they had the back three covered, so we must keep it in hand.

'Every South African supporter should be really proud of our team. It's not often that you go over to New Zealand and you're right in it until the death. It is true that they make better decisions than we do, but we're at least moving in the right direction. Our try was just as good as theirs. It was just the territorial dominance that gave them better opportunities to kick penalties. '

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

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