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'We think we are the best in the world': Pollard holds belief in aerial plan

By Ben Smith

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Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard believes his team is the best in the business when it comes to the aerial side of the game after their 19-17 loss at the hands of the All Blacks.

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South Africa kicked a total of 38 times in the game compared to just 18 by the All Blacks, which came under question after the side booted away prime attacking field position.

When they were on the edge of the All Blacks’ 22 on attack, the ball was sent to the air by scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, and late in the game, down by two with only a few minutes remaining, Herschel Jantjies box-kicked possession away while inside New Zealand’s half.

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The strategy did pay off early in the sixth minute when George Bridge dropped an uncontested spiralling high ball near his try line and it was scooped up by Sbu Nkosi to strike back almost directly after the opening try to Will Jordan.

The All Blacks had mixed results catching the high ball with George Bridge going 0 from 5 in the air, losing the ball four times to the Springboks, while fullback Jordie Barrett was the standout fielding 11 from 16 high kicks with just two of the loose balls recovered by South Africa.

 

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Beauden Barrett fielded two from two, Will Jordan one from one, while Damian McKenzie took one from two. Overall, South Africa recovered possession seven times from 26 high balls that were kept in play, at a rate of 27 per cent.

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi insisted after the match that kicking is in the team’s “DNA” and Pollard continued that message during this week’s press conference.

“We have a specific DNA that we believe we are the best at,” Pollard explained to the media.

“We trust our processes and we trust our plan.

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“Of course, it is a bit different to do stuff like that but that was the plan we had for last week’s Test match and the boys stuck to it very well.

“When it comes to the aerial contest, we think we are the best in the world and that is something we work hard on.

“I think we will keep doing it because we trust our process and we trust our plan. It is a bit unorthodox I guess, but we believe in it.”

The Springboks have only kicked more than 35 times four times under Erasmus and Nienaber, for two losses and two wins, with the first such case being the semi-final win over Wales two years ago, while the first two tests of the Lions series saw the same extreme levels of kicking. Last weekend’s 100th Test against New Zealand was the latest occurrence.

The loss to the All Blacks was their third in a row, confirming The Rugby Championship title will return to New Zealand after South Africa had claimed it during the shortened 2019 version of the tournament.

Flyhalf Pollard said that their confidence hasn’t been dented after losing the title and dropping three straight Tests, with “belief in the process” and confidence in each other unwavering. He said that the side doesn’t look back at results, even if they won the previous week, with all focus going into the plan.

“You would think losing a couple on the road will dent your confidence, but we just have so much belief in the process and we get confidence from preparation and we get confidence from each other,” he said.

“We don’t really look back at results even if we won the previous week. We just put all our energy and focus into our plan, which gives us confidence.

“I think the boys have been brilliant. Yes, we have lost a few on the trot but with the intent, the energy and the preparation, you still try to train exactly the same.

“The results are just not going our way, but we will give our everything on Saturday.”

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'We think we are the best in the world': Pollard holds belief in aerial plan

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