Fri. Sep 18th, 2020

Rugby World Cup: Pollard anticipates kicking showdown with Halfpenny

Handre Pollard knows he has to improve his goal-kicking as he expects nothing but the best from Wales’s Leigh Halfpenny in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final.

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The Springboks number one goal-kicker, Handre Pollard, needs to be on target against to keep the nation’s Rugby World Cup hopes alive.

Injury to regular Wales fullback Liam Williams has seen prolific goal-kicker Leigh Halfpenny promoted to the starting XV increasing the pressure on Pollard who missed a couple of difficult kicks against Japan.

Pressure on Pollard

“He (Halfpenny) is a world-class goal-kicker, we all know that,” Pollard said.

“We all know it’s going to probably come down to a kick or a drop goal. It’s semi-final rugby, so you must try your best to be on target with every kick. If it’s not to be, it’s not to be.”

Pollard has been successful with just 12 of his 19 kicks at goal during the Rugby World Cup while his opposite number Dan Biggar has nailed 12 of 15. Biggar and Pollard were starters when the Springboks met Wales in the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarterfinals and the Bok ten is relishing the prospect of testing himself against the physical Welsh pivot.

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Wales’ fly-half Dan Biggar celebrates after winning the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between Wales and France at the Oita Stadium in Oita on October 20, 2019. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

“We went at it four years ago, and I thought he had a brilliant game that day. We really had to play well to win that match,” Pollard said of the Boks’ 23-19 victory at Twickenham.

“He is a world-class player, unbelievably good. He is really not scared of the physical part of the match, and that’s something that excites both of us.

“It’s going to be fun to go against him for 80 minutes.”

Wales have the game to win the Rugby World Cup

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South Africa’s lock RG Snyman (R) celebrates with South Africa’s fly-half Handre Pollard after scoring a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Italy at the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa in Shizuoka on October 4, 2019. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Pollard’s kicking game will need to be on song to keep Wales from employing their suffocating tactics that have proven so effective against the Springboks in recent meetings.

“They know what they are good at, and focus on that,” the Springbok flyhalf added. 

“They are relentless in those areas. They starve you of possession and territory, and enforce their kicking game on you. They take away your set-piece.

“It’s not a gameplan or rugby with a lot of flair in it, but it’s suffocating. If you fall into that trap, they will enforce their gameplan on you for 80 minutes, and you will probably not win the match.

“It’s going to be two sides tactically trying to figure each other out. We have a couple of plans up our sleeves. I’m not going to go into that too much.” 

The Springboks face Wales in Yokohama on Sunday with a place in the Rugby World Cup final on the line.

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