Handre Pollard: Hard times paved the way for Springboks' double World Cup glory

Handre Pollard: Hard times paved the way for Springboks' double World Cup glory

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard has revealed just how driven the players were to succeed after experiencing the dark days of 2016 and 2017.

While many of the current crop of Springboks are now living the good life as back-to-back Rugby World Cup champions, Pollard still remembers the tough times when Springbok rugby found itself stuck in the doldrums and many of the same players had to endure several historic lows and record defeats.

While most Springbok fans have probably long since banished those bad memories, it hasn't been quite as easy for the players who had to be a part of it, but the tough lessons learned from those losses helped shape Pollard and his teammates into the World Cup champions they would one day become.

"As senior players, we still speak about the dark days of 2016 and 2017," Pollard revealed during a recent wide-ranging interview with Rugbypass.

"It's great to win World Cups, and some might say that is the reason you play. But to win those trophies in a broader context, considering where we were six or seven years ago... it's unbelievable.

"You have to credit the management and the coaches for what they've done to turn things around. You have to remember that many of the players who were part of the team that struggled back in 2016 and 2017 have gone on to win back-to-back World Cups.

"It took a lot of hard work to get things back on track, but we never forgot the pain of those early years. It was a nice story to win the 2019 World Cup, but it was so important that we backed it up in 2023."

Pollard certainly has a point when he points out just how special it was for the Boks to bounce back from those historic lows to ultimately become two-time world champions.

"I'm not sure that there is another group like this in rugby, that just simply refuses to give up and always finds a way, no matter the challenge," he added. "The scoreline in the three World Cup playoffs tells a story [all three were won by one point], but when you think about the past six years, we've been fighting non stop. It's a legacy that we should be proud of."

Pollard also singled out two of his fellow elder statesmen, Siya Kolisi and Willie le Roux, out for praise, revealing just how much they brought to the team.

"Siya Kolisi often credits the other leaders for assuming control or easing the pressure. He's grown into a fine leader over the years, though, and rarely needs our support anymore," he said.

"That allows us to focus on others things. We can keep the guys on task, and provide them with energy when they need it most.

"Willie le Roux has always been the best in terms of coming over and patting me on the back and encouraging me to get ready for what comes next. The public gives him a hard time, and we sometimes laugh at what gets said or shared on social media, because it's so wide of the mark.

"I cannot say enough for what he does in terms of lifting the team exactly when we need it. It inspires me to try and do the same."

As for the future, Pollard has a lot to look forward to off the field as well - he and wife Marise will soon welcome their first child.

"We're expecting, and we couldn't be happier," he said. "I will be a father soon, and that has to change your perspective. It's not that you take rugby less seriously, it's just that you learn to enjoy it more and not make it the centre of your life."

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