Handré Pollard feels that he has the patience as well as the tactical ability to lift the Springboks out of their current slump. JON CARDINELLI in London reports.
‘I never had to worry about Handré battling under pressure,’ Heyneke Meyer, the man who signed the flyhalf from Western Province to the Blue Bulls and subsequently backed him to start for the Boks at the age of 20, told SA Rugby magazine in an interview earlier this year.
‘It’s one thing I noticed when we did our psychological evaluations of the players as well as a few extra “pressure” tests in training. He’s very relaxed.’
That much was evident when Pollard faced the media in Paris on Tuesday.
‘I’ve always been a leader,’ he says matter-of-factly. ‘It’s something you have or you don’t. I feel that I have leadership qualities. That said, I believe everyone in this side does. You don’t become a Springbok if you don’t have the ability to take charge.’
The 23-year-old looks set to start against France in Paris on Saturday. It would mark his first start for the Boks since the 2015 World Cup. The flyhalf is determined to lend some composure to the team’s attack.
The Boks lost 38-3 to Ireland last week. The visitors’ defence was poor, but so too was the attack.
Too often the Boks crabbed across-field. When they did breach the gainline, they took some shocking decisions and turned over possession.
‘In these conditions you have to show some calm.’ he said. ‘We have to be clinical and do the basics better than we did last week. Then the moments of magic will come.
‘We’re still hurting,’ he added. ‘We’re going to take that hurt into this weekend’s game.
‘We just need to learn how to play these conditions better. A lot of the guys in really important positions were experiencing northern hemisphere conditions for the first time last week. We have learned from that and the adjustment has been plain in the last few days of training.
‘We’ve got to work harder for the opportunities. When we get an opportunity, we’ve got to grab it. We have to be patient.’
Pollard pointed to the Boks’ recent performance against the All Blacks. They lost 25-24 at Newlands, but were lauded for their physical and tactical effort. That display marked some turnaround after the Boks lost 57-0 to the All Blacks in Albany in early September.
‘We learned a lot from Albany and we were better at Newlands. This team has shown that it can come back from a disappointing defeat, and we’re aiming to do exactly that this weekend.
‘Some guys like to be back home where they can take motivation from everyone there. There’s no one here now, though. There’s no shoulder to cry on. We have to do it ourselves.
‘We have to do it for each other and back each other. It’s probably the toughest challenge in the northern hemisphere, to come back after a game like last week. But I want to embrace that.’
Photo: Paul Walsh/Getty Images