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The loss that showed Pollard why the Boks will always dominate World Cups

By Josh Raisey
Handre Pollard of Leicester Tigers looks on during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons at the Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium on December 03, 2023 in Leicester, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers were taught a sobering lesson in January when they travelled to the Stade Marcel Deflandre to take on reigning Investec Champions Cup winners La Rochelle, returning home 45-12 losers after being pulverised physically.

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For fly-half Handre Pollard, who started on the bench that day, he experienced what it was like to be bullied “into the ground”, rather than usually being part of a South Africa team that inflict the punishment.

The loss also provided the 29-year-old an opportunity to teach the next generation a vital lesson- that rugby will always come down to “brute force and physicality”.

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Up against a La Rochelle pack containing the 145kg tighthead Uini Atonio and his fellow 145kg teammate Will Skelton, Pollard explained on RugbyPass TV’s The Big Jim Show recently that his teammates were in awe of the size of the Australian.

The double World Cup winner added that he was asked what they could have done differently against the European champions, but explained that La Rochelle have the same approach as South Africa, which comes down to brute force, and has led to the Boks winning more World Cups than any other nation.

On top of that, he said that rugby will always come down to physicality despite the changes coaches make to the game between World Cups, and that it always will.

“We are used to playing with big people but he is massive,” the 69-cap Springbok said.

“So many of our guys have never been to La Rochelle, never played against him, some of the younger guys just couldn’t believe their eyes. It’s a big man, it’s a massive pack of forwards and that’s what they do to teams there, they just bully you into the ground and it’s wave after wave and that’s why they’ve won the Champions Cup two years in a row. It’s big, big human beings, it’s tough, especially there.

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“Some of the guys asked me after the game what we could have done differently and I said ‘How do you think South Africa win a lot of rugby games?’ It’s just brute force and physicality.

“It’s a part of the game that everybody tries to reinvent it every four years and we’re going into the next four-year cycle now and I’m sure a lot of coaches will try and reinvent the game and make it more appealing to the eye and all that – I get it, I get that completely – but it’s going to come down to physicality always and it always will.”

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