Handre Pollard relives Rugby World Cup semi-final heroics

Handre Pollard relives Rugby World Cup semi-final heroics

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard looked back on his clutch moment against England in the 2023 Rugby World Cup semi-final.

Pollard endured a tumultuous Rugby World Cup that began in huge disappointment but culminated in another trophy, largely thanks to a flawless kicking performance.

A calf strain initially left the talisman out of Jacques Nienaber's World Cup squad altogether, with the mercurial Manie Libbok listed as the Boks' only out-and-out flyhalf. But an injury to hooker Malcolm Marx saw Pollard drafted into the squad, and so his World Cup journey began.

Pollard had kicked six from six off the tee when the Boks arrived in Saint-Denis for the semi-final against England. Incumbent flyhalf Libbok started for the defending champions, but with Boks 9-3 down and a gameplan needing a change, the Boks' brains trust swapped out their flyhalves after just 31 minutes. 

Chatting to former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton on The Big Jim Show, Pollard revealed that he was as astonished as anyone else by the call.

"It really was a surprise," said the Paarl native of the early substitution.

"I didn't think Manie played that badly at all. He slotted a great penalty before and a couple of things went against us as a team. Our coaches have done that (called on early replacements) so many times before¦ it's nothing personal. In that moment, they feel like the team needs something different.

"As soon as I got on the field I could sense the frustration in the team. What we were doing wasn't really working. We knew that we weren't playing to our potential and that gets us frustrated."

Despite being 15-6 down after Owen Farrell's drop goal in the second stanza, the Boks clawed their way back into the game via a converted try from the combative RG Snyman.

Then came Pollard's moment in the sun.  

Another immense scrum from the Bok's Bomb Squad earned them a penalty 49m out¦ and the stage was set for South Africa's sharpshooter.  

"In that moment of putting the ball down, for me, it's excitement¦ I love those moments," reflected a grinning Pollard.

"It's the most alive you'll ever feel on a rugby field, as a flyhalf, as a kicker. All that pressure on you to kick that kind of kick, I just enjoy it, it's really fun.

"When I got back to my mark, I looked up and for a split-second in my mind I was thinking 'geez this is gonna be pretty cool if this goes over'. I'd never had that before, it was just the mind space I was in. 

"It was the best strike of my life, it was unreal. I could probably kick another thousand kicks and I'll never kick it again like that¦"

Truth be told, it was never missing. And Pollard never did, slotting 13 from 13 off the kicking tee in France. 

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