Handré Pollard says he made a few ‘small tweaks’ in order to re-establish his goal-kicking rhythm. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Pretoria.
On Tuesday, the Boks trained in sweltering heat in the middle of the day on the Loftus Versfeld outer field. It was a session that ran over the expected time as the team was intensively put through their paces ahead of Saturday’s highly anticipated clash against the All Blacks.
In the shadow team, Pollard ran confidently at flyhalf, while he went through a few plays from inside centre as has become increasingly customary when Elton Jantjies subs into the backline mix at first receiver.
Along with an upsurge in the Boks’ performances in recent weeks, Pollard has also begun to rediscover his mojo, both in general play and from the kicking tee.
It’s a far cry from the Rugby Championship opener when he converted just two from seven kicks at goal during the Boks’ win over the Pumas. He appeared to still be battling with confidence in this aspect of his game when the side slipped to a disappointing defeat in Mendoza the week after.
However, Pollard diligently went back to work, with the pivot producing a much-improved goal-kicking performance against the All Blacks in Wellington, while he also slotted five from five in last Saturday’s win over the Wallabies.
When chatting to the media after the team’s belated arrival back at the hotel on Tuesday, Pollard admitted that he had completed some technical adjustments.
‘I missed the [Bulls’] last Super Rugby game and there was a break for about four or five weeks [before playing again]. I think I just lost my rhythm a bit. I worked hard at it, and it didn’t come back straight away, but thankfully the last couple of games have been a lot better.
‘It just required some small tweaks, and I had to keep in mind that you’re going to have your off days and that it happens to the best in the world. For now it feels good, and hopefully I can keep that going.
‘I didn’t work with a kicking coach or anything,’ he added. ‘I’ve worked with some kicking coaches at the beginning of my career, but as you go on, you know exactly what you’re doing wrong when you’re making mistakes, and it’s just about getting back into the routine and rhythm.’
Ironically, All Blacks counterpart Beauden Barrett also came in for some similar criticism when he produced a woeful goal-kicking performance in the loss to the Boks. Yet Pollard laughed off any suggestion that his opposite number might be feeling some pressure coming into Saturday’s clash.
‘The best player in the world with 70-odd Test matches doesn’t feel too much pressure. He’s a confident guy and he might have also had a couple of off days in the past, I’m sure he’ll be 100%, so we have to just make sure that we play as well as possible.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 2, 2018
Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images