Handré Pollard. Picture: REUTERS
Handré Pollard. Picture: REUTERS

Their goal-kicking may have been off the mark against the Wallabies but Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids has backed Handré Pollard and Damian Willemse to improve before Saturday’s return Rugby Championship Test in Brisbane.

Davids emphasised the qualities that the players possess and the long-term view the Boks cannot lose sight of in building for the next Rugby World Cup (RWC).

The Springboks went down 28-26 in Gold Coast after a last-gasp match-winning penalty by Australia flyhalf Quade Cooper. The Boks had earlier squandered opportunities at goal that could have advanced their score by 10 points.

“Handré Pollard is a professional rugby player and a quality individual on and off the field‚” said Davids. “He is the first guy to put up his hand and said he wasn’t as strong with his kicking game. We know what he can do. We know he takes pride in the way he does things.”

Revision and corrections will be done. Davids said Pollard is experienced enough to know how to make corrections.

“He will work hard to improve in that specific area‚” said Davids.

Willemse‚ who missed a relatively easy conversion that would have given the Boks a three-point advantage with only a few minutes to play‚ has also come in for stick.

‘Saved a try’

Davids was keen to point out that the player should not be judged solely on a kick.

“Damian is a talented and versatile player. We need to look further than just this game. He also saved a try.

“Though we want to win the Rugby Championship and do well on the end-of-year tour‚ our long-term vision is to win the next RWC. To do that you have to build experience in certain areas.

“The experience players such as Herschel [Jantjies] and [Aphelele] Fassi are getting in this tournament will be important lessons they can take forward if required at the RWC.

“Damian did miss that kick but he has other good qualities. We have to look holistically at what he brings for SA rugby going forward‚” said Davids.

Some pundits have already advanced the view that Morné Steyn’s accuracy off the kicking tee should be a major consideration in the assembly of the match day’s 23 for this weekend’s clash.

Davids could not speculate about the makeup of the team due to be named on Wednesday. “We will look at who is in the squad and what the challenges are and will make a decision accordingly‚” he said.

Crucial penalties

The Boks will come to grips with issues in the scrum. Apart from place-kicking‚ Davids said‚ the Boks are also looking to sharpen their discipline‚ defence and tactical kicking ahead of Saturday’s Test at the Suncorp Stadium.

Their scrum has also attracted scrutiny after they conceded crucial penalties.

“Set pieces are an important part of our game‚” Davids said about an area that also falls under his remit as forwards coach.

“Scrums are difficult to officiate. It is important for us is to make sure there is alignment between the pictures we see as coaches and what the referees see. Going forward it means we understand what we need to interpret and the areas we need to work on. The calls can go either way. It is very competitive. I feel for referees and the players.

“We have had clear discussions in terms of their interpretations. Going forward we will have a better understanding of what we need to do to get rewards.”

Davids acknowledged the team did not deliver their best performance last weekend.

“This was maybe not our best performance individually or as a team. All credit to the Wallabies who are a well-coached side. Things worked out for them. We had opportunities and the result might have been different.

“The players searched for solutions‚ but having that experience I’m convinced players will handle things differently and maybe we will get the result‚” said Davids.

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