Johannesburg - The All Blacks have acknowledged that the arrival of Handré Pollard as the starting flyhalf in the Springbok team has turned their traditional opponents into a different animal in terms of what they can do and has had an impact on their planning for Saturday’s Ellis Park showdown, reports the supersport.com website.
Morné Steyn, who made way for 20-year-old Pollard ahead of the first round Rugby Championship match-up between the teams in Wellington, is likely to again be watching from the sideline in Johannesburg, with Pollard wearing the No10 and Patrick Lambie proving against Australia that he is the perfect man for an impact role.
Steyn has achieved some success against the All Blacks in the past, most notably when the Boks won the Tri-Nations when Peter de Villiers was their coach back in 2009.
He was also the match-winner the last time the South Africans beat New Zealand, which was when Victor Matfield led them to victory in Port Elizabeth in the final match before the 2011 World Cup.
In all of those games where Steyn did well though, the Boks were employing what many see as their more traditional approach, with percentage rugby and kick and chase being the tactics that the game was based around.
To put it simply, the Kiwis knew there would be times they wouldn’t be able to stop the Boks from hitting target in employing their plan, but there was little unpredictability and they always knew what to expect.
With Pollard taking the ball up to the line and engaging defenders, as opposed to Steyn’s old tendency of spending more time standing in the pocket, and just generally being a more physical and abrasive presence than Steyn was, plus possessing a gifted passing game, the All Blacks have to think differently now.
Their assistant coach Ian Foster admitted on Tuesday that Pollard has them guessing more than Steyn did.
"I would say Pollard’s presence makes quite a significant change to what we can expect from the Boks," said Foster.
"We saw that at Wellington. Pollard really impressed us there. He played a strong game there.
"He was well composed and he did a lot of things right. He looks a good one for the future while also doing well right now."
According to Foster, Pollard is a departure from the traditional mould of a Bok No10.
"He is quite an attacking player and brings the players around him into the game.
"I guess that makes quite a lot of difference to their confidence and adds to what they can do.
"With Pollard there they have the confidence to spread the ball.”
All Black fullback Israel Dagg, who against Argentina last week broke a personal try-scoring drought, agreed with Foster that the Boks pose a different challenge to what they used to.
"They certainly are throwing the ball around a lot more now, and the guys out wide have good feet," said Dagg.
"Cornal Hendricks is particularly fast, and has been playing really well.
"So we are working together to get our defence in order for this week.
"But we do love to throw the ball around as well so it will be about taking opportunities.
"The games between these teams in South Africa, where the playing surface and conditions suit the type of rugby we like to play, tend to be quite spectacular, and I am sure Saturday will be no different."