British & Irish Lions

Generational Springbok talent Pollard underscores his value: 'He's one of the world's best'

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Handre Pollard. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Handre Pollard. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Flyhalf Handre Pollard, who was hailed at an early age as a generational talent, is on the precipice of guiding the Springboks to a British & Irish Lions series victory to add to a Rugby World Cup title.

No other South African flyhalf has started a World Cup final and started all three Lions Test matches in their career, winning both.

Should Pollard win both significant events, he could rank as the country's best-ever pivot, something he was touted to become even at schoolboy level as a Paarl Gimnasium pupil.

READ | Siya Kolisi urged by John Smit to play another 'captain's innings' in decider

Despite clearly standing out as a special talent, doubts have followed the 27-year-old through his career: goal-kicking accuracy, game management, and ability to spark the Bok attack.

Assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said the Springboks never doubted Pollard's capabilities and will now rely on his wisdom and experience for Saturday's clincher at Cape Town Stadium.

"As Bok coaches, we have never doubted Pollard," Stick said.

"We know the job he does for the team and his value to the Springboks.

"In South Africa, you often get varied opinions about how people see the game, but one shouldn't be drawn into those debates.

"So, we never doubted Pollard, and we've known that he is one of the best players and best 10s in the world.

"The fact that he was there when we won the World Cup as our key player at 10 means we have put our trust in him as one of our wisest, most experienced players.

"His game is pure, and he elevates his big match temperament when it comes to kicking for poles because of his incredible focus.

"He is vice-captain to Siya and helps Gqwashu (Kolisi's clan name) a lot.

"His game tomorrow (Saturday) is going to be very valuable to the team, and we know he's done it for us before, and we have no doubt he will do it again."

Pollard played his 50th and 51st Tests in the Lions series that's tied 1-1 going into the first decider.

He has missed the odd goal-kick in the two previous games, but they were not costly enough errors to impact either of the results.

However, the Boks have a gun kicker in Morne Steyn on the bench, the man who kicked them to the series win at Loftus in 2009, should they need his magic.

"Morne has been amazing. His energy and how much he loves rugby is still the same as when I first started back in 2013. He is still the same guy and still hungry," said Kolisi, extolling the 37-year-old's value to their dressing room.

"He has been sharing a lot with the guys and preparing the guys who are playing, and now he's finally getting his opportunity. 

"I'm excited for him, and I think he will be key for us to calm everything down. He is a cool head ... we need that. You can't buy experience, and I think his wisdom will be a huge value for us in this Test."

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Liam Williams (Wales), 14 Josh Adams (Wales), 13 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Adam Beard (Wales), 20 Sam Simmonds (England), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Finn Russell (Scotland), 23 Elliot Daly (England)

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