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.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup)

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.”

Related items

  • England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash

    Jess Breach insists England enter unknown territory when they meet a rapidly improving Scotland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations on Saturday.

    The Red Roses have not lost in the fixture since suffering an 8-5 defeat in 1998 but that record faces its sternest test yet at a sold-out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh, where a record crowd of 7,774 will be attendance.

    Scotland toppled Wales in Cardiff in round one before being edged by France a week later and, having won the WXV 2 tournament in October, there is evidence the 28 professional contracts awarded at the end of 2022 are raising standards.

    England remain favourites but wing Breach insists the element of jeopardy is good for the Red Rose and the Six Nations.

    “It is going to be a really competitive game. And we’ve probably never been in this scenario with Scotland before,” said Breach, who has won on all 35 of her caps.

    “Everyone’s really excited because it’s going to be challenging for us. Hopefully we can showcase really good rugby for the fans.

    “It’s great for the competition. You can see that every nation is getting better after being contracted.

    “Italy put up a great fight against us in the first half, so it just shows that if money is pumped into the game and players are allowed to go full time, the Six Nations gets better.”

    Demonstrating the growth of women’s rugby is that Scotland’s victory 26 years ago was staged at an independent school in Edinburgh, compared to a packed Hive Stadium in 2024.

    “It feels like we’re growing and heading in the right direction. Every nation wants big crowds,” Breach said.

    “That’s happening at the moment and heading into the 2025 World Cup we should be able to sell most stadiums out. It’s exciting and who doesn’t want to be part of women’s rugby?”

  • On this day in 2004: Brian Lara makes record Test score of 400 not out On this day in 2004: Brian Lara makes record Test score of 400 not out

    On this day 20 years ago, Brian Lara regained the individual Test score world record on his way to an unbeaten 400 against England in the fourth Test in Antigua.

    Ten years after hitting 375 to claim the world record for an individual innings against England at the same venue, Lara exceeded that effort by becoming the first player in history to score 400.

    By doing so, he became the first player to hold the individual Test innings record twice.

    Lara reclaimed his record from Australian Matthew Hayden, who only six months earlier had broken the record with 380 in Perth in October 2003.

    Lara’s mammoth innings steered the West Indies to a total of 751 for five before declaring and reflecting on his achievement, he said: “When I scored it before I didn’t know what to expect – this time it was very tiring, but I’m here again.

    “Matthew Hayden must have batted very well against Zimbabwe because it doesn’t matter who you are playing against, it’s very hard.

    “It’s a great feeling, but it’s dampened by the series result. Ten years ago the match ended in a draw, but this time we’re looking for a result.”

    Upon achieving the record, Lara was greeted in the middle by Baldwin Spencer, the Prime Minister of Antigua, while England captain Michael Vaughan hailed Lara as “one of the all-time great players”.

    “We all set out to achieve greatness, but he is a gifted, gifted player – throughout his innings we tested him with a few things but he was much better than us for those two days,” Vaughan said.

    “He is one of the all-time great players, he has achieved something that has never been achieved before even with the amount of pressure he had on him before the start of this Test.

    “He will go down as one of the greats of the game and it will take some player and some performance to beat his 400.”

    Mahela Jayawardene went close with 374 for Sri Lanka against South Africa two years later but Lara remains first and third on the list two decades on.

  • Rob Baxter urges Exeter to have ‘belief’ against Toulouse in Champions Cup Rob Baxter urges Exeter to have ‘belief’ against Toulouse in Champions Cup

    Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter wants his team to take the experience of winning in France into their tough Champions Cup meeting with Toulouse on Sunday.

    The Chiefs fought back to beat Bath 21-15 last week to book their spot in the quarter-finals but now have the challenge of facing five-time champions Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

    Exeter are underdogs heading into the clash but are familiar with the feeling of winning in France, having kicked off their Champions Cup campaign with a thrilling 19-18 victory over Toulon in December.

    Baxter knows the size of the task ahead of his team but thinks the result earlier in the season has instilled the belief to do something similar this weekend.

    Speaking at a press conference, Baxter said: “The Toulon game was something that created an element of belief of ‘we are doing the right things and heading in the right direction’ amongst the players and you need that.

    “I think it gives the players an element of belief that we can do it, go over there and play the big sides, but I also think it gives them a level of looking forward to it because, without doubt when you go and experience the atmosphere, the noise level at the end of the game was incredible for anyone who was there.

    “That’s created the excitement and nervous anticipation around the squad this week in training which is exactly what you want to be.”

    Exeter responded well to beat Bath on Saturday after they were thrashed 41-5 at the hands of Sale the week before.

    Baxter revealed the players had clear-the-air discussions prior to their win last week, but the Chiefs boss now wants his side to back up the result with another good performance.

    He added: “As a team the lads have got to do the hardest thing to do in sport and get to a really competitive level for two weeks running.

    “At the same time that’s how you win trophies, winning trophies or big games is when you put back-to-back big performances in semi-final to final or last-16 to quarter-final, that’s how things have to happen if you want to win.”

    France’s key man Antoine Dupont will be in action for Toulouse and will undoubtedly be highlighted as a key threat for Baxter’s men to deal with.

    Baxter said: “If you know the opposition nine is a particular threat in the team, the focus isn’t necessarily on the nine it’s the things that allow him to be a threat.

    “Dealing with Dupont will be very difficult if we don’t deal with the other platforms but that goes for any decent player.

    “If we can challenge them in that way, that’s how you potentially limit his opportunities. You can create an environment which is harder for him to show it, that’s how we have to approach the game.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.