South Africa’s Handre Pollard expecting to face ‘ruthless’ England in semi-final

By Sports Desk October 18, 2023

Fly-half Handre Pollard says the pressure of representing South Africa at the World Cup is a privilege as he bids to inflict more misery on England.

Pollard kicked 22 points in the 2019 final to guide the Springboks to glory with a 32-12 win and still remembers the disappointment etched on the faces of Eddie Jones’ men.

The fit-again Leicester playmaker is competing with Manie Libbok to start Saturday’s Paris semi-final after initially being overlooked for his country’s squad due to a calf injury.

 

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Pollard expects England, now led by Jones’ successor Steve Borthwick, to take their intensity and physicality to a “whole new level” but insists the heavily-fancied reigning champions are ready for it.

 

“You could see on their faces four years ago the disappointment and I’ve been part of a squad that’s fallen out in a semi-final in a World Cup (in 2015) and it sits with you the rest of your life,” he said.

“There’s a lot of things you look back (on) and regret and maybe think you could have done differently, and I’m sure they will come with that mindset this weekend.

“I think they will be ruthless, I think they will take their intensity and physicality to a whole new level.

“But that being said, we’re prepared for that, we’re ready for that and we enjoy that.

“That’s always a part of the game we love and if there’s going to be beef, there’s going to be beef.

“It’s Test rugby, it’s 80 minutes and we’ve just got to go out and play the game.”

South Africa are seeking to reach their fourth World Cup final, having lifted the trophy in 1995, 2007 and 2019.

Pollard believes the Springboks’ enviable ability to deliver when it really matters can partly be attributed to adversity some players face during childhood.

“It’s just the way we’re brought up,” he said. “We love it.

“It’s not always been easy for a lot of our guys in our squad growing up so when we get to this position and get to this point where there should be a lot of pressure on us, we refer back to it a lot, this is not really pressure, this is more privilege to be a part of these occasions.

“I think our game model and the way we play the game suits World Cups pretty well. We’re comfortable in this environment.

“As a group we just enjoy it, really enjoy that pressure. We always say it’s a privilege to have this pressure on our shoulders playing for our country.”

South Africa progressed to the last four by upsetting hosts France 29-28 on Sunday.

That epic contest included Cheslin Kolbe successfully charging down a Thomas Ramos conversion and Damian Willemse calling for a scrum off a mark inside his own 22.

Earlier in the tournament, the Springboks attracted attention for a bold selection of a seven-one split of forwards and backs on their bench for the Pool B loss to Ireland.

Pollard says players fully embrace the innovative tactics cooked up by director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber.

“Nothing that they do is for no reason, it’s all thought of, it’s all tick-list planned,” he said.

“We trust them because they’ve earned our trust over the years from what they’ve done and how they’ve prepared.

“So when they come up with these ideas, there are no questions asked.

“They give us a reason why we do whatever we do and then we just back it and we’re all in and we all just trust each other, players to coaches and coaches to players.”

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