Rugby Championship

Handre's kicking hiccup needs to be corrected

2018-08-20 21:58
Handre Pollard (Getty)

Johannesburg - The kicking performance by Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard is definitely a concern, but not one that cannot be overcome over the course of the Rugby Championship.

READ: Boks: Durban gate all-time Rugby Championship low

While social media may have raged about the perceived injustices of how Pollard is treated in comparison to Lions pivot Elton Jantjies, what is clear is that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is not prepared to throw any of his two flyhalves away, and nor should he.

One thing that is clear from watching Erasmus over the course of the England series and over the past few weeks is that he is definitely busy with a bigger-picture thinking process.

He has consistently used the World Cup as a destination and the current games as a building block to work towards the ultimate goal in Japan, and as such has not only been keen to experiment, but also look at putting long term success ahead of short term gains.

This is why on Saturday, while it was pointed out that Pollard only succeeded with two out of six kicks – a concern that he said would be addressed this week in training – the howls of anger across social media perhaps need to be tempered a bit.

It is true that Jantjies has been the subject of much vitriol over the past few weeks and months, especially after his lacklustre performance in the wet at Newlands. But behind a pack that was going backwards and in poor conditions, Jantjies’ performance was placed too much under the spotlight, just like Pollard’s performance this past weekend.

It is all too easy to focus on the 10 jersey - the general or “quarterback” as Damian Willemse summed it up this past weekend - but it is long term consistency that will win the argument for Erasmus, and not just short term problems.

Too often flyhalves are judged on one performance, a performance based on the service they get from their forwards and their ability to marshal their back line. But on Saturday it was Pollard’s lack of accuracy with the boot that was the problem, and it just seemed as if he was striking the ball poorly rather than being influenced by the conditions in the game.

Anyone who knows Pollard knows the amount of time he will spend this week on the training field looking for that perfect strike again and how much he will personally feel he needs to bounce back this weekend in Mendoza.

“It’s obvious,” Erasmus said, pointing to Pollard’s kicking as a disappointment, “I mean, how many points did he miss? Two out of seven and I will lie to you here if I say I am happy with his goalkicking. And he will tell you straight up he is not happy with his goalkicking.

“But he will work at that and (Beauden) Barrett missed two or three goals in front of the posts and he made up with two or three great tries. Yes, it wasn’t a great day for him at the office but he will admit it, we will admit it and we will work at it and get it right.”

Erasmus will back Pollard to bounce back this weekend as well, and Jantjies will have a bigger role to play as the team head towards the World Cup.

Young Damian Willemse is the alternative, and Erasmus obviously wants to blood him slowly, as he should. Jantjies needs to be backed to find his form at international level.

Because whatever these 10s critics say, they all will be crucial for the campaign going forward.

A top-class international flyhalf is key to test match success and any player can have an off-day.

As the old saying goes, it is how he bounces back that is important.

Erasmus understands that and understands the limitations in player stocks that he has at the moment.

That is why Saturday’s kicking performance wasn’t good enough. But like with Jantjies, it is part of the player and the team’s growth and development.

And not the storm in a teacup it was portrayed to be.


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