Mallett: Too much focus on Pollard
Cape Town - Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett feels too much emphasis is placed on the performance of Bulls captain and flyhalf Handre Pollard.
Pollard, who missed the entire 2016 season with injury, has struggled upon his return to action.
He has captained the Bulls to two opening round Super Rugby defeats - against the Cheetahs and Stormers.
Pollard’s goal-kicking is also below standard while he has struggled to impose himself on the gain-line.
But that is because he is playing behind a struggling pack, Mallett feels.
“We’re focusing a bit too much on Pollard. We ought to focus on the Bulls pack. In both their games to date, the pack only got into the game in the last 20 minutes. For 60 minutes the backline didn’t really get much ball and Pollard was substituted after 60,” Mallett said in the SuperSport studio on Saturday night after the Cheetahs beat the Bulls 34-28 in Bloemfontein.
“I don’t care if you put Dan Carter behind a pack going back like that, he is not going to look like a good player. That’s where the Bulls problem lies and that’s what needs to be solved. The Bulls lost four lineouts against a Cheetahs team that we thought was supposed to be weak in the lineouts.
“We can’t keep on saying it’s because they have (a big) pack of forwards. The Bulls need a prop, a fetcher and they are missing a creative loose forward. They have bashers in the loose trio as opposed to someone who can make the little passes, a linking player like (Uzair) Cassiem and Michael Hooper, and like Rob Louw was in the past. If the pack manages to get at least a tighthead prop so that they can win their own ball without collapsing and giving a penalty away, then we can start talking about the play of Rudy Paige and Pollard and compare them in a fair way. They can blame a bad start all they want, but it’s actually a lack of first-phase ball that is causing them all this trouble. Against the Stormers it was the scrums and against the Cheetahs it was the scrums and the lineouts.”
Mallett feels Pollard should have been eased back into action after returning from injury.
“It’s interesting that Handre Pollard has started both games for the Bulls and we know how good he is. But I imagine had he been a New Zealand player he would have played off the bench. They should have started with the guy who did well the whole of last year (Tian Schoeman), perhaps giving Pollard 20 minutes in his first game back and 40 minutes in the second match against the Cheetahs.
“But what really cost the Bulls were the 38 handling errors they made compared to 13 by the Cheetahs. That is three times as many handling errors. If you are going to try and play a ball-in-hand game, you better made sure to hold onto the ball. The Cheetahs were much better at doing that than the Bulls.”