Over to you, General Pollard – ex-Boks
Former Springbok captain John Smit and fellow 2007 World Cup winner Butch James agree that Pollard will be the side’s most valuable player at the quadrennial showpiece.
Speaking at the launch of SuperSport’s broadcast of the tournament, the duo, along with former Bok flyer Odwa Ndungane, said the Boks’ success would ride on Pollard’s form in Japan.
“Handré is very important for us, he needs to be playing at his best for us to have any chance of winning,” James said.
Pollard seems to have found his groove for the Green and Gold, playing a pivotal role in the team’s unbeaten run so far this season.
The 2012 Junior World Cup-winning flyhalf has not only impressed with his deft goal kicking but has been instrumental in organising the Bok backline.
Smit said Pollard would play a similar role to what James and halfback partner Fourie du Preez did at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
“In 2007 with Butch and Fourie we had two guys who controlled the game and took decisions on when to play and when to kick, and it helped us with our energy,” Smit said.
James was bullish about South Africa’s chances at this year’s Cup with the side ticking all the boxes to make them real contenders.
“We’ve got a well-rounded game at the moment. All of a sudden our attack is coming to life, and we’ve always been good scoring tries from turnovers due to our solid defence,” James said.
“Now we are creating tries from space out wide, getting nice quick ball. We’ve got a brilliant pack of forwards, our set piece is awesome and our scrums and line-outs are solid.”
James said the team’s defence had made serious strides since coach Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber took the reins in 2018.
“Rassie and Jacques started with a rush defence which is quite hard to get gelling,” James said.
“It didn’t work for several games but all credit to the coaching staff as they’ve stuck with it, and are now reaping the rewards from that strategy.”
He said the Boks’ depth in almost every position made them one of the stand outs in this year’s competition.
“If any of them should get injured the next guy coming in you are happy with what he is going to do,” James said.
“In every position when you do pick up an injury, the next guy coming in is as good, if not better.
“I would think that teams like Ireland, if they had to have one or two key injuries - then that is their whole team gone.”
The South Africans will open their campaign against defending champions New Zealand on Saturday, September 21 in Yokohama (11.45am SA time kick-off).