Handre Pollard ahead of 50th Test cap: Different vibe, tension in Bok team room for first Lions clash
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CAPE TOWN – Saturday’s first Test between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions will be extra special for Handre Pollard.
Not only will he make his return to the field after Covid-19 isolation, which saw him miss last week’s South Africa A clash against the Lions, but he will also earn his 50th Test cap at Cape Town Stadium (6pm kickoff) – and in his home province, as he hails from Somerset West and went to school at Paarl Gym.
In addition, the Bok flyhalf had a long road back from a knee ligament injury that threatened to keep him out of the Lions series.
✈️ The last three Boks who were in isolation have joined the camp in Cape Town— Springboks (@Springboks) July 19, 2021
🗣️ "The vibe is good and there is some tension ... it’s time to get into the Tests"
👉 More here: https://t.co/i35qb8J4ij#CastleLionsSeries #StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/sXSlzdFwqa
Now he says he is feeling 100 percent again. “Personally, I’m pretty good. I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have symptoms or anything. So, it was just about getting through those 10 days by waiting. Physically it was good, and got through the return-to-play (protocols) pretty quickly, so personally for me, no low points and I’m ready to go,” Pollard said during an online press conference on Monday.
“This morning when you walked into the team room, you could feel that there was a different vibe and a little tension in the room, which is always good.
“We know that there is a big challenge that lies ahead in the next three weeks. So, as a group, having everybody back together again… everybody is enjoying it again.
“But it’s time to go now – all the talk and everything is finished now. It’s time to get stuck in to these three Test matches.”
Pollard’s availability would have come as a huge relief to head coach Jacques Nienaber, as he is the undoubted mastermind behind the team’s success.
His unerring kicking boot, physicality in defence, ability to find gaps on attack and cool nature under pressure shone through during the 2019 Rugby World Cup – none more so than in the semi-final against Wales, where he slotted a late, angled penalty to clinch the victory.
The 27-year-old’s duel with Welshman Dan Biggar, who should wear the Lions No 10 jersey on Saturday, will be one to remember.
“In terms of the analysis, it’s just about picking up small things that a player likes to do, what their tendencies are – but I’m sure they do it on us as well. It’s just about understanding the opposition better,” Pollard said.
⁉️ Jacques Nienaber got what he wanted in terms of game time for his squad and seeing which players will be ready to face @lionsofficial next week— Springboks (@Springboks) July 17, 2021
➡️ More here: https://t.co/I9SsRH1BJm#CastleLionsSeries #StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/TvIjAwSklw
“Then, going up possibly against Dan, he is a brilliant player and he is really playing well lately, but he has been a great player for very long. We have played against each other numerous times in the past, and it’s always been fun.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big secret of what’s coming. The two sides play pretty similar games, and it’s going to come down to physicality, set-piece and all the basics.”