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NEWS: Pollard pleased with Boks’ prep ahead of Rugby Championship opener

Handre Pollard said the Springboks are excited about the challenge of lining up against the All Blacks in Nelspruit in Saturday’s opening Rugby Championship clash.

Handre Pollard - Springboks
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Handre Pollard said the Springboks are excited about the challenge of lining up against the All Blacks in Nelspruit in Saturday's opening Rugby Championship clash.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

The flyhalf also revealed that while they do have a set game plan, they plan to use the opportunities that arise in the match.

The last time the Springboks defeated New Zealand on local soil was back in 2014 at Emirates Airline Park when Pollard contributed two tries, three conversions and a penalty goal before a late three-pointer from more than 50m out by Pat Lambie sealed a 27-25 win.

Pollard and Springbok flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit said the Boks were ready to give everything against their arch-rivals.

“It’s always great to play against the All Blacks,” said Pollard.

“We had a great week of preparation, so we have to make sure we pitch up for 80 minutes and that as individuals we all do our jobs and also as a team.”

Responding to whether the Springboks would stick to a more conservative style of play, Pollard said: “We have a way of kicking and playing and we believe in that plan.

“We’ll stick to our plan this weekend and see how things go after 20 minutes and if we have to adapt, we will. If the opportunities are there, we will certainly try to take them.”

Du Toit also looked forward to the challenge and said: “Playing against the All Blacks is always a good opportunity, and it is great to play here in Nelspruit.

“It’s a good opportunity to show our supporters where we are now after 2019 (when the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup). Obviously, time has moved on and we have to adapt, but we are excited about the challenge.

“We last won against the All Blacks at home in 2014, so it is an honour to play for the Boks against them, we really want to make our supporters proud.”

With a lot of media attention reserved for the All Black pack this week following the appointment of their new forwards coach Jason Ryan, Du Toit said the Boks’ main focus had been on themselves instead of their opposition.

“For us, the main objective is to play the way we train,” said the 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year.

“The last time I played against them (at the RWC in 2019), we lost, and it is a big focus point for us to make sure that it doesn’t happen again this time.”

While Du Toit anticipated a big test against their forwards, Pollard expected an equally tough challenge from the All Black flyhalves and their dangerous backline in general.

“Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett both have the X-factor, and they are experienced players,” he said.

“They are a threat with their footwork and with ball in hand, so we’ll try to contain them as much as we can and do our best as a team on the day as well.

“It’s going to be a massive battle. You don’t want to give the All Blacks broken field play, so the kicking game will be important, but it will come down to execution, and we’ll do the best we can to counter that.”

Du Toit stressed the importance of strong set-pieces and breakdown play as they look to get the series off to a positive start and said: “Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane are always good players in terms of playing to the ball, so we have to ensure that we are strong at the breakdowns.”

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