Springboks back Pollard to atone for poor display: 'He immediately put up his hand'

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Handre Pollard (Getty)
Handre Pollard (Getty)
  • Handre Pollard and Damian Willemse's spots in the Springbok team aren't in immediate danger just because of their poor goal-kicking against the Wallabies last weekend.
  • Bok assistant coach Deon Davids noted that Pollard immediately acknowledged that he didn't perform well and deserves a chance.
  • Debate over Willemse's position is supposed to be even less of an issue as he delivered a good cameo on the Gold Coast.

Handre Pollard and, to a lesser extent, Damian Willemse seemingly won't be burnt at the stake for their indifferent place-kicking displays in last weekend's narrow defeat to the Wallabies.

Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids on Tuesday intimated that the team will resist making panicky changes ahead of Saturday's Rugby Championship "second leg" in Brisbane, not only because of a short turnaround time but also because Pollard deserves an opportunity to set things right.

Pollard delivered arguably his worst showing in a Green-and-Gold jersey in the 26-28 loss, struggling with his radar off the tee to spurn eight points.

READ | Lock Janse van Rensburg withdraws from Bok squad due to personal reasons

"Obviously, the goal-kicking is an area that we discussed in the aftermath of the match. Handre is a professional, a quality individual on and off the field. He's the first guy that put up his hand and said that he wasn't on song with his kicking game," said Davids.

"We know what he can do. He's a guy that takes pride in the way he does things. We're confident he'll correct that and will work hard to improve in that area."

In fact, the meticulous Pollard has probably already done much introspection, especially given that the Boks devoted almost the whole of Tuesday to thorough review sessions and only commence with field sessions again on Wednesday.

"Handre is experienced and has the ability and experience to adapt, to identify which areas of his game didn't work for him last weekend," said Davids.

"He'll be eager to rectify things."

The debate about Willemse is more bizarre as he wasn't strictly speaking selected as Pollard's designated backup, rather as the utility option in a 6-2 bench split.

He missed the conversion that would've at least ensured a draw but has never truly been considered a frontline goal-kicker in the national setup.

As a result, there have been calls for Morne Steyn or Elton Jantjies - both renowned as kickers - to be included to provide specialist support for another potential Pollard off-day, possibly at the expense of Willemse on the bench.

But, as Davids noted, the 23-year-old's wayward kick shouldn't detract from an overall cameo that was quite decent.

"Damian is a talented player, but it's very important for us to look further than just this upcoming match. He's versatile and made such a big contribution to our cause, notably making a try-saving tackle," he said.

"We have some short-term goals like the Rugby Championship and the end-of-year tour, but it's really about the 2023 World Cup. And with that in mind, you need to build on the experience of your squad, particularly in certain positions.

"The experience that Damian and Herschel Jantjies are gaining is important. They're learning lessons. Damian missed a goal-kick, but he contributes more fundamentally than that."

The Springboks announce their team for the match on Wednesday.

Kick-off is at 09:05 SA time.

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