Handre Pollard kicked 22 points in South Africa’s World Cup final win against England in 2019 and on Saturday his boot will beat the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town, writes Mark Keohane.
Pollard is a fabulous rugby player. He is to this Springboks team what Dan Carter was to the All Blacks and Jonny Wilkinson was to England. He is that good and he is that influential.
If I was coaching a team, he is the flyhalf I would want in my team and not playing against my team.
When Scott Gibbs and I chatted in the build-up to the second Test a week ago, we spoke about the influence of Pollard and also Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf.
Gibbs, a veteran of three Lions tours, said if the Boks were to level the series, then Pollard and De Klerk would have to be sublime. They were and both created the two Bok tries with superbly executed creative attacking kicks.
De Klerk has been forced out of Saturday’s third Test decider because of injury and in his absence, Pollard’s Montpellier halfback teammate Cobus Reinach will start.
Gibbs described the selection of Reinach as ‘genius’, having been impressed with Reinach’s play for Northampton and most recently Montpellier.
But it was Pollard we also spoke a lot about in previewing the third Test, and Pollard for me is the individual who will provide the biggest threat to the visitors. His game management is outstanding, but it is his calm that personifies his game. He is physical and isn’t shy to take or make a tackle, but his creative skills don’t always get acknowledgement because of the perception that the Boks don’t play with creativity.
Pollard understands occasion and also a match situation, and he has the ability to adjust his approach accordingly. He has done it so many times for the Springboks and will continue to produce big performances.
His goalkicking is 75 percent, but over and above this accuracy is that he nails the ones that matter, and is seldom put off by an early miss or two in a match.
His pressure kick in the World Cup semi-final win against Wales was as big as they come in a match situation and in the most recent Boks win against the Lions, he turned a forward domination into scoreboard reward.
The Boks, given their second half performance against the Lions, will have confidence that their forwards will deliver the necessary foundation for Pollard to power the hosts to a Test win and a come from behind series win.
Pollard is a winner and has the mentality of a winner, which is why I have the Boks to win by eight.
And that is being conservative.
Watch Scott Gibbs, SA Rugby Mag Zelim Nel and myself preview the third Test.
Also on www.keo.co.za