PRETORIA – The raw and brutal facts of world rugby talk to the All Blacks still being the best side in the world by a country mile and the Springboks still dragging themselves out of the abyss.
But this doesn’t mean that the South Africans won’t be licking their lips at the opportunity of achieving a rare double over the old foe when they clash in their final chapter of this year’s Rugby Championship competition.
And the Springboks will be fuelled by their heroics from two weeks ago in Wellington when they pulled off an emotional and unexpected 36-34 win against the All Blacks to see them record their first victory in nine years in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
However, that win won’t be enough to overcome the All Blacks this time around at a sold out Loftus Versfeld and Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard believes they will need to be even better in all aspects of the game than they were in the New Zealand capital against a side that continues to push the bar higher in international rugby.
“They are the best team in the world, so you aren’t going to surprise them, you aren’t going to do anything a lot better than them because they are good at everything. Character is a big thing, to play for 80 minutes is a big thing. You need to win those big “small moments” every time in a game if you are going to win the game. Step for step, and you know it will go for 80 minutes so you need to be ready for that.
A secret formula? I don’t know, if there was one, hopefully we can get it fast and use it. No, there isn’t a secret formula. You need to work hard and to be accurate,” said Pollard.
And even if the Springboks are to pull off another sensational win and record a rare double over the All Blacks, Pollard says they won’t see themselves as world beaters yet.
As far or as near from being world beaters as the varying views on the Springboks progress under Rassie Erasmus has been, there is no doubt that the team have made huge strides not just on the world rankings, moving from seventh to fifth place, but also in their performances which have ensured them back-to-back victories against the All Blacks and Wallabies lately.
“I don’t think two wins makes us suddenly the best team in the world. We aren’t saying we will beat the All Blacks every single time. We will definitely try and we will give our best to do that, but they are the best team in the world.
We are still a team that is growing, that are learning to get to know each other and the coaches, management. We aren’t under a false impression that we will win everything. But we will try and take what happened in the last two games and take another step forward.”
Playing at his homeground and kicking the ball at poles sweeter than he did at the beginning of the competition, Pollard is oozing confidence and eager to please what will be his first sell-out crowd at Loftus.
“After the break, we were off for about four to five weeks and I didn’t play a lot of rugby after my last Super Rugby game and I think I just lost my rhythm a bit. I worked hard at it and it didn’t come back straight away, but luckily these last two weeks it has been a lot better. So small tweaks, been working hard at it.
We all have our off days, it can happen to anybody and it happens to the best in the world, so you just have to keep working hard at it. For now it is good, and hopefully I can keep on going,” Pollard said.
It is something that we (Jesse Kriel and myself) have always talked about, to play in front of a full Loftus. On Saturday we get the opportunity so it will be lekker.”