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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Leicester and Springboks out-half Handré Pollard.
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RWC clash with Ireland, world-class Felix, and 'a few pints with Cro'
Springboks out-half Handré Pollard says next year’s clash is massive.

SPRINGBOKS OUT-HALF Handré Pollard said they will take belief from their narrow loss to Ireland earlier this month as they now look towards a crucial World Cup pool game against Andy Farrell’s side next year.

Pollard missed the November Test in Dublin due to injury but was proud of the South Africa performance in a 19-16 defeat.

The two sides will meet again in a crucial World Cup Pool B clash in Paris next September, with most people viewing that as the decisive fixture in the group.

While the Boks lost in Dublin, Pollard feels the performance was part of a strong autumn window, particularly given that the South Africans recovered from their ensuing narrow loss to France by beating Italy and England.

“They’re the number one team in the world,” said Leicester out-half Pollard of Ireland at today’s Champions Cup launch in London.

“That is what it is and they have shown it. I just think for us as a team, playing away from home with key players missing and still almost getting a result is big for us and we take a lot of positives out of that.

“Yes, it is not a result, but if you look at the bigger picture this tour was a very positive tour for us, and it has been a long international season for us. Our boys were tired, they have been travelling all around the world for four, five months now, there is no break in our international season. So for us, I think it was a great end-of-year tour. Not the results but in general, the tour.”

felix-jones Ben Brady / INPHO Pollard raved about Felix Jones' influence. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Pollard admitted that the Springboks will view the Irish clash next year as pivotal, even if the quarter-final draw won’t be straightforward either way.

“It is massive, mate,” said Pollard. “It is always going to be big, but it is not the end of the world if you don’t win it. You can still go through like we did three years ago [after losing to New Zealand in their pool].

“Either way, you are going to find France or New Zealand in the quarter-finals and I don’t know who you want to play between them. It will be a massive game and you want to go into the play-offs with momentum, but it is not the end of the world.”

The Boks have a settled staff led by director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber, while Irishman Felix Jones remains a key influence as the attack coach.

Former Ireland international Jones also deals directly with the Springboks’ European-based players, keeping in constant contact with them to ensure that everyone remains aligned at all times.

“He’s world-class, he’s a workaholic that guy, never stops,” said Pollard of Jones. “That is one thing I have never seen in my life. I have seen coaches work hard, I have never seen something like that guy. He is just obsessed with the game, he loves it.

“It was really nice to get a Southern Hemisphere sort of flavour into our coaching team and team because it is so tactically sound. For us, we don’t get coached that way in South Africa from a young age, so to get that in was really nice and I really enjoy working with him. He is world-class.”

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james-cronin-after-his-last-game-for-the-province Morgan Treacy / INPHO Ex-Munster man James Cronin is impressing with Leicester. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

As for Erasmus, Pollard said the Boks players retain huge faith in the man who led them to World Cup glory, whatever about his latest ban for critiquing match officials.

“We still love him for what he has done for us and our country,” said Pollard. “Whether you agree or disagree with whatever he does on social media, that’s your personal opinion. Us as players, we love him and we will always back him all the way.”

Knee issues mean Pollard has played for Leicester just once since joining from Montpellier last summer but he is hoping to be back in action around the turn of the year.

He’s excited to finally get a run of games under head coach, Steve Borthwick, who has impressed him, while Pollard is also keen to get a chance to play with Irish loosehead prop James Cronin.

“I’ve had a few pints with Cro, he is a good man,” said Pollard. “Great player, it is great to have him in our squad. You can see he is just somebody that grafts and works hard and he is a very talented rugby player.

“Not always had the recognition he deserves, so it is nice. Hopefully, he can have a long time with us.”

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