Pretoria - Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard gave a wry smile when asked about his kicking form and the social media buzz it created earlier in the Rugby Championship this year, SuperSport.com reports.
After two mediocre performances against Argentina, Pollard was lambasted on platforms for his form, mainly by those who had taken offence that Elton Jantjies had been overlooked and vilified by some when he had a few lapses in his game as well.
And it became a debate that never should have been.
International rugby is about pressure, and the pressure it created on both Pollard and Jantjies was unnecessary as they both looked to propel the Springbok team forward to good performances.
But in Australasia Pollard got his groove back, and stamped his mark on the No 10 jersey, and followed it up in Port Elizabeth with a faultless performance with the boot and will be looking to take another step forward when the Boks face the All Blacks in their final game at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
But why did he go off the boil, and what happened to change it? It wasn’t rocket science it seems, but simply the fact that Pollard felt he was out of sync.
“After the break, we were off for about four-five weeks and didn’t play a lot of rugby after my last Super Rugby game and I think I just lost my rhythm a bit,” he admitted.
“I worked hard at it and it didn’t come back straight away, but luckily these last two weeks it has been a lot better. So small tweaks, (I've) been working hard at it. We all have our off days, it can happen to anybody and it happens to the best in the world, so you just have to keep working hard at it. For now it is good, and hopefully I can keep on going.”
Pollard doesn’t employ a kicking coach but his career stats are comparable to any of the world’s top players in Test matches. And he says at this level and at his age, he knows where things go wrong.
“I have no kicking coach. I had kicking coaches at the beginning of my career, and appreciate what they did for me, but as you go on, you know exactly what you are doing wrong when you are making mistakes. It is just about getting back into the routine and working hard.”
On Saturday Pollard will face Beauden Barrett, double World Rugby Player of the Year and the man in Wellington that was widely criticised for failing in front of the posts.
Barrett missed four kicks in a two-point game that would have given his side victory, much like against the British and Irish Lions a year ago, and there is a belief that when the pressure is on, his kicking takes a knock.
But Pollard scoffed at that suggestion, saying he is certain Barrett will be at his best at Loftus, and the Boks need to make sure they are simply better if they want to win the Test.
“The best player in the world with 70 odd Test matches doesn’t feel too much pressure,” he laughed.
“He is a confident guy and had a couple of off days in the past, but I am sure he will be at 100 percent this weekend so we can’t leave anything up to him feeling the pressure. We have to play as good as we can to make sure even if he kicks that it doesn’t affect us.”
The Boks and All Blacks will name their teams on Thursday for the clash.