Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard says that his whole life has been preparation for the pressure of a Rugby World Cup final.
Pollard was excited on the eve of the biggest match of his career against England in Yokohama and said he was relishing the prospect of playing on the grandest stage in rugby.
Pollard prepared for pressure of Rugby World Cup final
The Springboks have won the Rugby World Cup final twice but have not scored a try across the two matches which have been decided by the kickers.
“I love it,” said Pollard on Friday.
“That’s why you train, that’s why you put in the hours. If you imagine from being a little boy in the backyard, thinking to yourself, ‘This kick is in the World Cup final’ and all those scenarios. You’ve basically been preparing your whole life for it.”
Big match experience
Pollard was part of the South Africa under-20 side that won the age level World Cup in 2012 and skippered the Baby Boks to a final four years later, incidentally suffering defeat to a Maro Itoje-led England. The flyhalf was cool as a cucumber against Wales, ensuring the Boks stayed in front before kicking a match-winning penalty.
“I guess you could look back at every big game you’ve played in your career, and try to get whatever you can out of it,” said the flyhalf.
“It’s going to be pressure, it’s going to be tough. But you’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to enjoy it. And it’s not just the kicking – it’s the whole game where there is going to be pressure all round.
“Use it in the right way and send it in the right direction, that’s the secret to finals rugby. I’m very excited and I can’t wait to get going.”
The Springboks gameplan is in no way based on the element of surprise but Pollard says the team may just have a few tricks up their sleeves.
“We’ve still got a few things we can throw at them. But they’ve also got a blueprint, it’s pretty obvious. I don’t think it’s a big secret with either side,” he said.
“We’ll come out with a couple of different plays, something that you try and surprise your opponents with.
“But in general, the DNA – what we believe in and what they believe in – is not going to change in a week’s time. It is what it is, and that’s what got us here and what got them here.
“So, we won’t go away from something that’s working. We will have a couple of trick plays maybe. But mostly, everything will stay the same for both sides.”
The Rugby World Cup final between England and the Springboks kicks off at 11:00 (SAST).