Handre Pollard is expecting a ‘tactical chess match’ when the Springboks front Wales in the World Cup semi-final. JON CARDINELLI in Yokohama reports.
The Bok kickers trained in wet conditions at the Yokohama Stadium on Friday afternoon. More rain is expected ahead of the semi-final clash with Wales on Sunday.
Pollard and assistant coach Mzwandile Stick fronted the media immediately after the session. The Bok flyhalf smiled when he was asked whether the conditions would suit the South Africans or the Welsh in the do-or-die clash.
‘Rassie has picked six forwards on the bench,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it’s a secret that it’s going to be a massive set-piece battle. We certainly aren’t going to fix what isn’t broken.
‘The weather shouldn’t affect the tactics of either side. I suppose if we wake up on Sunday morning and things are really bad we may have to adjust.’
Warren Gatland has brought in veteran fullback Leigh Halfpenny in place of the injured Liam Williams. Both Pollard and Stick feel that Halfpenny will be a threat with the boot and on the counter-attack.
Pollard added that he is looking forward to another World Cup clash with Dan Biggar. The Wales flyhalf was outstanding when the teams met in the quarter-final staged in Twickenham four years ago.
The Boks had to fight tooth and nail to secure a win on that occasion. Since then, however, Wales have won four games in a row.
‘We really had to play well to win that last quarter-final,’ Pollard said. ‘Dan is a world-class player who has a wide range of skills. He likes the physical side of the game. I think that we both do. I’m looking forward to that battle.
‘I don’t think that Wales are known for their flair. They can be relentless in terms of implementing their game plan.
‘When they control the set piece and enforce their kicking game, they can start to suffocate you. We have to be careful about falling into that trap.
‘It’s going to be an interesting chess match. The two teams will feel each other out tactically in the first 20 minutes and from there it will be about applying the pressure and converting it into points.’
As was the case in the lead-up to the quarter-final against Japan last week, Pollard highlighted the importance of kicking conversions, penalties and even drop goals.
‘You’ve got to try your best to take all of those opportunities as a kicker,’ he said. ‘We’re at the stage of the tournament where the game is likely to be decided by one kick.’
Bok flyhalf Handre Pollard nails a touchline conversion in spite of his teammates trying to out him off. pic.twitter.com/26bCJeJnrf
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 25, 2019
Photo: EPA/Mark R. Cristino