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Sorry South Africa, Handre Pollard can't save you

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The inevitable and predictable reaction to the Springboks’ narrow 13-8 loss to Ireland has led to chorus of South Africans swooning after their golden boy Handre Pollard.

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The goal-kicking ace who can save the Springboks because 11 points were left out on the table, never mind that Pollard doesn’t have the distance to nail them from 50 plus metres out like Faf de Klerk tried to twice.

And it’s not like he’s ever missed a goal either, a career kicker at around 75 per cent in Test rugby.

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Before his heroic kick against Wales to propel the Springboks into the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, Pollard was kicking at 63 per cent in that tournament.

On the opening night he clanged a sitter from dead in front into the right upright against the All Blacks and finished with two from three. Against Italy he was six from nine, remaining at 66 per cent.

In the final against England he sliced two more penalties and couldn’t find touch kicking to the corner on one occasion.

His turnovers that night kept England in the contest longer than they should have been, with six points coming from backfield errors made by the Springboks No 10.

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But facts don’t matter with Pollard.

Never before has the perception of a player been so detached from reality as it is with the player Montpellier shelled out millions of euro for.

It was Morne Steyn who saved the Boks from the tee during the British & Irish Lions series and his immediate retirement afterward caused issues.

On the very first overseas trip Down Under to Australia, Quade Cooper nailed eight from eight for the Wallabies while South Africa had kicking issues.

“Polly” himself missed three shots at goal, yes three, while Damian Willemse copped the ire of Victor Matfield for a late conversion that sailed wide and didn’t even look like going close. He didn’t lament the No 10’s failures.

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The golden boy can save the Springboks because his name is Handre Pollard. Well, sorry to say South Africa, he can’t, and he wouldn’t have got the win last night either.

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The two Springbok packs that were sent out to do a job on Ireland were feasted on at the breakdown, with Irish jacklers dining out all evening with continual ruck pressure.

The incessant jackalling took a toll and Ireland began to win turnovers forcing holding on penalties late in the second half.

Warrior performances from Caelan Doris and Tadhg Beirne, who both got through 80 minutes along with Josh van der Flier, led the counter-effort to the 7-1 injection.

Even the famed Bok scrum failed when it mattered most. Conor Murray smartly caught them pushing off before the ball was fed, a cardinal sin that cost three points.

Before that they were penalised on their own feed in front of the posts which Sexton converted calmly to take the lead back.

The uncomfortable matter for South Africa is that Ireland were able to match them in the physicality stakes.

For every punishing hit on an Irish player, there was a player in a white jersey getting folded.

It was the kind of game that the Springboks wanted to have, yet it was Ireland who came out on top despite a malfunctioning lineout that could not convert a throw early on.

The ‘what ifs’ for South Africa are low percentage hail mary-type penalty goals. The ‘what ifs’ for Ireland are multiple botched lineout opportunities around five out.

South Africa are looking for crumbs while Ireland had plans for the entire cake. That they didn’t get it was largely their own doing with miscommunication issues plaguing those throws.

Don’t tell us South Africa would’ve won had they made the kicks because had Ireland made their throws it could’ve been over by half-time.

The silver lining out of the game for the Springboks is that they now align with France for a quarter-final, a side that they’d probably prefer.

Parachute Pollard in for that one if you like, but if the two packs fail to get ascendency again it will be a similar result and the saviour will need saving.

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Comments

173 Comments
W
Warren 74 days ago

Well you’ve made a proper tit of yourself, haven’t you! 😂

C
Charles 188 days ago

Love to see how wrong the strong Ben Smith opinions can go 😂

D
Daniel 254 days ago

One of the great articles Ben. Well done

J
Johann 260 days ago

aged like milk 🥛🥛🥛

P
Patrick 261 days ago

Sorry for you Ben Smith

P
PaPaRumple 272 days ago

This guy knows nothing. How in god's green earth did he become a rugby journalist.

E
Etienne 274 days ago

Oh the irony…. Handle Pollard excecuted a penalty kick from the halfline. 😆

E
Etienne 275 days ago

Rassie Erasmus planned it well. Give Ireland the bragging rights game, Play France and then deal with NZ in the final.

E
Etienne 275 days ago

Sorry Ireland, Johnny Sexton couldn't save you.

D
Daniel 292 days ago

A bit of a puerile article, but the key points are valid. The Irish forwards were exceptional in that game. There wasn't much in it overall, though, both sides gave as good as they got physically. Etzebeth got picked up, Sexton and somebody else got bounced by De Allende and had stars flying around their heads like cartoon characters for a moment. You can cherry pick all night depending on the picture you want to paint. But at the end of the match, all that matters is the scoreboard.

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Nickers 2 hours ago
'One of the poorest All Blacks performances I've seen in a long time'

Extreme hyperbole from Biggar. NZ have played far, far worse than that. The 20/21 team was by far the worst of the professional era. Losses to Argentina, shambolic game against Japan and hapless NH tour of 2021. But even that dreadful team were able to put 50 points on Wales and beat them by 38. Much easier to “tear them to pieces” from the commentary box apparently. Ignored by virtually everyone is how good the ABs defence was. That is why England didn’t win, they simply could not score enough points against that defence. The ABs attack was very average, but their defence was world class and that’s what won them the game. Any Wales team that Biggar has ever played for would have found themselves in the same situation and would definitely not have scored tries from those cross kicks. That ABs team beats Biggar’s best Wales team 31 - 13. England’s attack was as good as it was allowed to be by a superior defence. Hats off to Hansen, he has picked up where MacLeod finally got the ABs to last year and not missed a step. England’s attack will be a big worry for Borthwick. They have not established a reliable, repeatable way to break teams down and score points. They were held to some very low scores by average teams in the 6N, and again here didn’t cross 20 points on either occasion. If I was an England fan I would be crying out for a new attack coach. Borthwick would do well to cast his net now, a poor home winter with a faltering attack will start the calls for his job.

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T
Thomas 2 hours ago
'Champions get up when they can't': Matt Williams weighs in on Ireland's win over Boks

While both teams have their particular positives, I think neither team should rest on their laurels. South Africa managed to tie a series against an uncomfortable opponent, that has had their numbers for a couple of years, while trial-running a completely new attack system, that still doesn’t work properly. But one aspect of “it doesn’t work yet” is a transition from attack to defense in broken play, as the Boks leaked three tries in two matches this way, and lost the second match as a result. Ireland avoided a series loss in a hostile environment, and in spite of many key player injuries, while managing to significantly improve and tighten their defense in game 2 (which demonstrates the breadth of their squad as well as their ability to adjust and recalibrate). At the same time, their own attack hadn’t amounted to much, either (save from exploiting the gaps in the Boks’ new system, gaps that won’t be there anymore in a few months’ time), and they haven’t found an answer to the Boks scrum, which almost costed them the 2nd match, if it hadn’t been for pretty much unrepeatable Frawley heroics. In the end, there isn’t much that separates those two sides … which is exactly what we knew before the series already. Back to the drawing board for both teams, the work only just begins for two teams with the highest ambition. Start of a cycle alright.

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