British & Irish Lions

Pollard and Boks chuckle at Rassie's verbal battle with Gatland: 'He's very street-smart'

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Handre Pollard. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Handre Pollard. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
  • Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard revealed that the players have been merely amused by the verbal battle between Rassie Erasmus and Warren Gatland. 
  • The pivot jokingly warned the Lions not to go too far with these types of debates as the national director of rugby is very "street-smart".
  • Meanwhile, Pollard is in a relaxed but purposeful frame of mind after completing his isolation from Covid-19.

Handre Pollard has jokingly warned the Lions not to engage Rassie Erasmus in too many debates over law interpretations or "risk" getting humbled.

The build-up to Saturday's first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions has been given some extra spice by the national director of rugby and the visitors' head coach, Warren Gatland, engaging in a verbal battle over the past week.

Gatland had complained over Faf de Klerk, South Africa's scrumhalf terrier, not receiving a red card for a no-arms tackle in last week's match between South Africa 'A' and the tourists and also questioned Erasmus' role as "water boy".

Erasmus then responded via Twitter where he attached two clips of De Klerk and No 8 Jasper Wiese both being stopped in their tracks by hits that could be construed as high.

READ | Gatland on Rassie's tweets: 'It's all a bit of fun, a game within a game'

However, Gatland was in a conciliatory mood after the Lions' 49-3 victory over the Stormers at the weekend, saying that the exchange "adds to the occasion" while being "a bit of fun, a game within a game". 

Asked whether the players took much notice of the mind games, Pollard merely chuckled.

"We hear about these things from time to time," the Springbok flyhalf said with a grin.

"We just have a laugh at it most of the time. When it comes to these type of things, you don't really want to take Rassie on. He's very street-smart.

"The guys must just do what they think will work for them. We'll focus on our stuff."

Pollard's diplomatic, relaxed answer is indicative of his own state of mind.

Despite being one of the Springboks to test positive for Covid-19 following the Test against Georgia, the imposing pivot was one of the fortunate individuals not to be affected adversely by the virus.

"Personally, I'm pretty good. I was one of the lucky ones who didn't have symptoms or anything. So, it was just about getting through those 10 days by waiting," he said.

"Physically it was good, and [I] got through the return-to-play [protocols] pretty quickly, so personally for me, no low points and I'm ready to go."

Being confined to his hotel room despite being healthy allowed Pollard to attune himself for the mental challenge posed by what is going to be a high-profile series.

"It was really just about mental prep. I've been doing a lot of analysis," he said.

"The Lions have quality players everywhere and we were analysing them as hard as we could when we were stuck in isolation. So we have a good idea of what's coming, it helps to pick up small cues and what their individual tendencies are. 

"Of course, you're given some gym equipment like a fitness bike if your body feels up to it. When you're in isolation with no symptoms, it's not about trying to 'win' back your fitness and going at it hard. It's just about keeping intact what you already have."

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