Sorry South Africa, Handre Pollard can't save you
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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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