Can the Boks do without Handre Pollard in 2020?

Handre Pollard was seen falling to the ground clutching his knee in the middle of the tackle. He had a stellar Top 14 up to that point. He is currently hospitalised with the injury and the Springbok vice-captain would probably not be available for the Rugby Championship, if it indeed commences. With his X factor […]

Can the Boks do without Handre Pollard in 2020?

Handre Pollard was seen falling to the ground clutching his knee in the middle of the tackle.

He had a stellar Top 14 up to that point. He is currently hospitalised with the injury and the Springbok vice-captain would probably not be available for the Rugby Championship, if it indeed commences.

With his X factor pace, power and try-scoring ability, he brings more to the game than the usual fly half.

He possesses that ambitious hunger to go for the line which makes him such a good ball carrier in contact. He has the flattest and longest pass in the world, as was evident in his World Cup campaign.

As I said in the article on his role in the Springbok team, I feel that his absence is a big hurdle in the Springbok campaign. Few players have the same gifts to play such a role for their team.

His teammates and coaches have been emphasising his integrality.

‘He’s very physical and has a bullet of a pass. He also has good feet and has the ability to draw the defender and create the space,’ Jesse Kriel said in ‘Insight into the Influence of Handre Pollard’.

‘That makes all the difference for us on the outside. He knows what works and what wins Test matches, and he backs his teammates. In turn, we have a lot of confidence in his leadership.’

‘He’s the player who has to sum up the situation in a fraction of second and make a decision,‘ says Stick. ‘He’s got to look at the players around him and decide how he’s going to organise them and use them to the team’s benefit. It’s something he really relishes.’

His kicking puts the big shift, especially in the World Cup final. Pollard slotted six from eight shots at goal as well as two conversions, causing his 22-point haul.

For the Boks to win, the South African pack’s physicality has to be converted into points by Pollard.

He is not there this year. The question is, how will the Boks fare without their first-choice kicker?

Curwin Bosch may be a replacement, with some good ball-playing displayed in the SR, but his defensive liabilities were the reason why Coach Du Preez initially did pick his son over Bosch. Well, Bosch cannot make up for Handre’s physicality.

Same goes for Elton Janjities – strong ball playing but not that great in defence.

Damian Willemse may be a rising star, but 64 per cent for kicking is not good enough for a Springbok flyhalf.

This leaves South Africa with one clear option – Robert Du Preez.

According to Sport 24, given the man’s size and skillset, he is theoretically a like-for-like replacement for Handre Pollard.

Apparently, he has been impressive as the second-highest points scorer so far in this year’s Premiership with 116 points. According to Sport 24, he has made 174 passes without one going awry, which is certainly quite a feat.

To begin with, few flyhalves even throw that many in a season, and to have that count without even one going awry is extremely impressive. Such a record points to more-than-solid and perhaps spectacular distribution.

187 running metres is extremely respectable, and surpasses many others. His tackle completion of 84 per cent is also solid.

According to Opta Sports‘ stats, “the Sale Sharks flyhalf has assisted eight tries in Premiership Rugby this season, more than any other player”.

This is no small feat, considering the quality of the players in the Premiership.

While, Elton may have started when Pollard went off in the past, Rassie Erasmus had still refrained from using him in big games during the World Cup and only played him against the Tier 3 sides in their pool, not starting him against Italy. He was not even a man on the bench in other games.

Meanwhile, Du Preez seems to possess all the skills of Pollard – and he can step in at 10 in the star playmaker’s absence.

This injury is a cloud on the Boks’ campaign this year, but the sliver lining is that they can try out someone at 10.

Source : The Roar More   

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My five favourite English players of all time

After completing the first three of my articles, I have now decided to move up to the northern hemisphere. I am aware that Argentina is located in the southern hemisphere, but I wanted to move up north before coming back down again. One of the greatest English rugby teams of all time was the 2003 […]

My five favourite English players of all time

After completing the first three of my articles, I have now decided to move up to the northern hemisphere.

I am aware that Argentina is located in the southern hemisphere, but I wanted to move up north before coming back down again.

One of the greatest English rugby teams of all time was the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning team and their presence is felt heavily within my list. I had the (mis)fortune of living in England during this year and felt as though I bore the brunt of the post Rugby World Cup flak from every Englishman.

However, I did get to see all of the Six Nations matches that year and a lot of premiership rugby as well. This list is heavily dominated by that team, yet there is one notable omission, a certain number ten who kicked the most famous drop goal in English rugby history.

This is not a sour grapes moment and I respect Jonny Wilkinson greatly. However, he was not one of my favourite players so did not make the cut. Nevertheless, here we go.

Martin Johnson
There are many things that I loved about the man they refer to as ‘Johnno’, from his physical prowess through ball carrying and lineout work.

His ability to get every player in his team to raise that extra five percent was another one.

Number one though was his unflappability in the face of his opposition. Nothing fazed him. He was the ultimate leader. I would strongly recommend watching the British and Irish Lions documentary from the 1997 tour; it sheds a lot of light onto him and his presence.

Sure, he was built like a tank which definitely helped but he was the consummate professional. Captaining England on an unbeaten tour of New Zealand and Australia certainly made me stand up and notice and realise that these guys were the real deal.

We all know what the Johnson-led team achieved a few months later. The image of Johnson holding the Webb-Ellis trophy above his head with the team around him is one of the sport’s most enduring. As much as it pains me to admit it, they were the best team in the world at that point in time and Johnson led them superbly from the front.

Laurence Dallaglio
Another member of the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning team and a vital component at that. The number eight in a tough and uncompromising back row of Neil Back and Richard Hill, Dallaglio was an outstanding rugby player and one of many unofficial leaders in that team.

A team that was built on forward dominance, the likes of which Dallaglio thrived in. Dallaglio played every minute of their campaign and when you consider how he played the game, that is very impressive.

A three-time member of a Lions squad, and a member of the Rugby World Cup Hall of Fame and multiple Six Nations winner, his resume is impressive.

A former England captain, some of Dallaglio’s biggest achievements were actually in club land where he captained his beloved Wasps to multiple premierships and Heineken Cup victories in Europe. His autobiography is definitely worth a read and in it Dallaglio mentions that early on in his career he was approached by Italy about representing them.

A sliding doors moment? Dallalgio rejected the offer as he was passionate about playing for England and didn’t want to compromise the playing shirt for Italy by playing and not really believing in it. Says it all really.

Jason Robinson
The last member of the 2003 Rugby World Cup team and the only back in the whole list. Robinson was an absolutely outstanding player.

The greatest “space manager” I have ever seen and the scorer of some simply breathtaking tries. The two which stand out for me are probably very similar for most rugby fans. The first one was his try in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final.

Set up from an excellent run by (ahem) Dallaglio who then passes out to Wilkinson who then finds Robinson who runs the final 20m beating Wendall and Rogers to the line. Not a particularly memorable try but in the context of the match and English rugby history it was huge.

I love the celebration and the excitement on his face too (definitely didn’t at the time though!). The other try was the one that really announced himself to Australia. The 2001 Lions tour where Robinson received the ball from a rather innocuous looking pass.

The Wallabies were manned up in defence and it looked business as usual. Except no one told Robinson who put on some of the flashest footwork seen and completely stood up Chris Latham and scored.

I remember at the time, turning to dad and asking “what the hell just happened?”. A scintillating try scored by a scintillating player.

Maro Itoje
Moving away from the 2003 team and into the more recent one. I have spent the last four and half years living and working in London and one of the great pleasures has been watching Maro Itoje play. The hype around him was big before he even made his debut.

When he was named to make his debut it went into overdrive. We are all aware of the U.K press’ propensity for bigging up players, however, after his debut everyone could see this was warranted.

Maro Itoje runs the ball for England. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

Named man of the match in his second outing against Wales, Itoje was earmarked for big things. His athleticism is freakish, his hands are outstanding but I think his strongest attribute is his rugby brain. Reminiscent of Victor Matfield he is excellent at lodging himself in the opposition hooker’s head.

Named a starting British and Irish Lion in only his second season of international rugby, Itoje was taught a lesson in NZ. However, this only drove him to improve to greater things and he was one of the outstanding players at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Itoje has been earmarked as the captain of the Lions for the tour of South Africa next year where he will be desperate to prove himself against the world champion Boks.

Billy Vunipola
A somewhat controversial choice I would imagine, but Billy Vunipola is someone I have loved watching over the past few years. Sadly for Billy he has spent many of the past few years on the sidelines, yet when he is playing is certainly worth watching.

He is destructive. Opposition teams are terrified when they are defending a five metre scrum on their own line. Vunipola loves running over the top of people but also possesses a very neat short-passing game. I just love watching a big forward go on a run and Vunipola delivers this regularly.

I fear that a lot of southern hemisphere fans would not have seen the best of Billy due to geographical distances but also the aforementioned injury woes he has suffered.

It has been under Eddie Jone where Vunipola has realised his potential and Jones has often rushed him back into the starting team where possible, albeit, sometimes to his own detriment. I hope for his sake he is able to have an injury free run because he really has the potential to be one of the best players in the world.

There you have it Roarers, my favourite English rugby players. Who are yours?

Source : The Roar More   

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