Pollard: Boks embracing the pressure of knockout rugby

Pollard: Boks embracing the pressure of knockout rugby

Experienced flyhalf Handre Pollard said the Springboks were embracing the pressure that comes with a Rugby World Cup semi-final against England at Stade de France in Paris on Saturday, and that they thrived on it and viewed it as a privilege.

The match kicks off at 21:00 on Saturday, while New Zealand will go up against Argentina in the other semi-final on Friday night.

"Many players in this squad did not have an easy upbringing, so for us (representing South Africa) in a game like this is a privilege rather than pressure," said Pollard.

"Most of the players grew up under pressure and they enjoy it, so we perhaps have a model to play World Cups. We are playing for our country, and it's important that we leave everything out there."

Pollard was delighted to be back in the squad and back on the field after a calf injury ruled him out of contention for the original 33-man RWC squad, but he relished every moment of being back in the set-up.

"Of course it was disappointing (not to make the original squad), but it was a time sensitive matter," said Pollard. "We pushed as hard as we could to get me ready in time, but it was a few weeks too late to show the coaches that was fit."

In his absence Manie Libbok stepped up to the plate and has done a fine job at adding attacking spark to the Bok style of play, and Pollard, who shared the flyhalf responsibilities in the dramatic quarter-final win over France, was full of praise for his team-mate.

"I can't praise Manie enough for the way he's playing and handling the pressure," said Pollard.

"He's a humble guy and works extremely hard, and he works for the team. He's got a lovely dynamic way of playing towards us as a team, that's a lovely thing and something that we've all embraced and enjoyed as well. Whatever are roles are for myself or him wherever we play it's all towards the team and what we can do best for them."

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Pollard agreed with SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus that England had a bone to pick with them after suffering a 32-12 defeat in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and a 27-13 defeat at Twickenham last year, and he said they had to be up for the challenge.

"I could see the disappointment on their faces four years ago, and I've lost a semi-final before, and when that happens you look at yourself," said Pollard.

"I think they'll be ruthless and take the physicality to the next level. So of course, there™ll be beef, but we have to go out there and do the job."

Canan Moodie, who will compete with Lukhanyo Am and Jesse Kriel for the Springboks' outside centre berth, was humble about the competition for places within the squad and said, at 20 years old, he is learning as much as he can from the more experienced players.

"Jesse played an amazing game last weekend," said Moodie.

"His defence was phenomenal, and we all know defence can win you games. I take a lot from the players around me and especially a guy like Jesse."

With the player being equally comfortable at centre and wing, he was not fussy about where he would play if he was selected for the clash.

"We trust the coaches, so I'll play any position in which I am needed," said Moodie.

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"I've played a lot of matches at wing and two at centre during the World Cup, so I will go with whatever the plans require."

Some pundits have already tipped a Springboks versus All Blacks final, but Moodie said it would be a big mistake to get ahead of themselves.

"We are focused on the task at hand," said Moodie. "We don't want to play a third or fourth place playoff. We have to get past the semi-final first before we can even think of a potential final."

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will announce his matchday squad to face England on Thursday morning.

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