Rugby World Cup 2011
Pocock a 'jewel of a jackal'
David Pocock (Getty Images)
Wellington -The "jackal at the tackle" has become common parlance at the Rugby World Cup but it has never been better personified than in the shape of Australia flank David Pocock.
The 23-year-old, who moved to Australia from his native Zimbabwe when a teenager produced a stunning display in the Wallabies' 11-9 quarter-final victory over South Africa on Sunday.
He put in 26 tackles but more importantly continued to forge his trade in forcing turnovers at the breakdown.
In the absence of Springbok 'fetcher' Heinrich Brussow, who went off injured after 20 minutes, Pocock totally dominated the breakdown to help set up a semi-final against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
Australia coach Robbie Deans labelled Pocock's performance as the best individual display of the 2011 tournament.
"Immense. David Pocock's game was remarkable and it was bigger than he got credit for," said Deans.
"He's clearly a huge influence in any game he plays in and we'd clearer be poorer for his absence.
"The world is blessed with some very good snafflers at the moment and no doubt people will be looking forward to this coming weekend, to that end," he said of Pocock's likely duel with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
Pocock has amassed 37 caps in the three years since making his debut, but was back on the field on Sunday for his first full game since missing the Wallabies' shock 15-6 pool loss to Ireland.
"We were very confident and clear what we wanted to do," Pocock said.
"But they pinned us in our half for long periods of the game.
"Because we were defending for so long there were great opportunities at the breakdown.
"Losing Brüssouw was definitely a blow for them," Pocock admitted.
"He's a quality player and he puts a lot of pressure on the breakdown."
Deans acknowledged that New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence's 'anything goes' approach to the breakdown had helped Pocock's game.
"I think both sides were hard done by. It was a hotly contested area so maybe it evened out, maybe it was fair," he said.
Deans added of his star flanker, who took the number seven shirt from the legendary George Smith: "David was one of the International Rugby Board players of the year last year (Pocock was a nominee for an award won by McCaw) and you do not get that status lightly.
"He is an influential player who makes things happen."
Springbok flank Schalk Burger called Pocock a "fantastic player".
"Getting him back is a massive boost for Australia," Burger said. "You know that if he gets the opportunity he will turn over possession.
"Any team knows that if it dominates the breakdown it will go well in the game and Pocock is one of the best openside flanks in the world."