Brown reckons Pollard just needs another gallop

rugby08 July 2024 12:20
By:Gavin Rich
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Handre Pollard @ Gallo Images

Handre Pollard’s uncharacteristic misses from the place-kicking tee in Saturday’s first test against Ireland in Pretoria were down to him just being short of match time and are nothing to be concerned about for Springbok fans.

That is the view of Bok attack coach Tony Brown, who was himself a flyhalf of some repute who understands the challenges of having to be the game driver in general play while at the same time being the team’s main goalkicker. He did it many times for the All Blacks as well as the Highlanders, plus the Sharks and Stormers during his playing stints in this country.

“Handre last played a game two months ago. I know from experience that when you play a game when you haven’t played in a while, fatigue sets in,” said Brown as the Boks began building up to Saturday’s second test at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Umhlanga Rocks on Monday.

“When you are tired then the quality of the goalkicking goes down. So I am not concerned at all about Handre and his kicking. All he needs is just another game under his belt. We all know Handre and his ability to kick well and go again.

“He kicked well in training all of last week. But that is when you are fresh. A game is different. You do get tired in a game and that sometimes makes it more difficult.”

Pollard wasn’t always so flush in general play either and he may have had to make a few adjustments to his approach to suit the more expansive game that the Boks have started to employ since the former All Black pivot and Japan and Highlanders coach joined the South African management.


On the subject of being part of the Bok set-up, Brown said that his return to his old Durban stomping ground was a reminder of why he chose to link up with Rassie Erasmus at the Boks.

“One hundred per cent, I loved my time here,” he said of his stint at the Sharks under the coaching of Dick Muir in the 2006 season.

“I enjoyed my time with both teams immensely (he also played for the Stormers under Erasmus’ coaching in 2009). It is great being back in Durban where I had a very happy time and I hope to catch up with a few people during the week.”

There’s been a lot of talk about the move to bring in a new dynamic to the Bok game, something that is the reason Brown signed up to be part of the Bok set-up. Given his attacking philosophy, he would not have made the switch unless he’d been convinced by head coach Erasmus that their philosophies on the game were aligned.

He seemed content with the way the Bok attacking game went in the first game against Ireland and is looking forward to seeing them tested again in the return clash at the weekend.

“That was a tough test match,” he said of the Loftus game. “Both teams were going really hard at the breakdowns, so there was a lot of messy rugby. But I think the things we were trying to do on attack showed some good signs. Particularly in the first half, when we got some width and created space that way.

“We applied pressure and things looked promising for us. We scored a really nice try early on,” he added.


And far from playing away from the South African strengths, the attacking template we saw in Pretoria was geared towards maximising the ability of players who might be set to go to another level now that they are under Brown’s tutelage. Not that seeing skipper Siya Kolisi running in the tramlines is new, it is just that he looks poised to be utilised in that role more effectively than he was before, as is Pieter-Steph du Toit.

“The South African team has outstanding loose-forwards and using loose-forwards as runners in the wide channels is not a new tactic, other teams do the same,” said Brown.

“It is all about getting the best out of the players. Pieter-Steph and Siya are dynamic players with great skill sets. We are giving them licence to do what they do well.”

Brown said he expected Saturday’s second test to be as fiercely contested as it was at Loftus and seemed to be relishing the challenge of trying to break down the visiting team’s excellent defensive system.

“It will be fierce again, as Ireland are very strong defensively at the breakdown. From an attack point of view it can be frustrating as Ireland want to slow it down. Both teams also have ballcarriers of real quality.

“But (as a coach) we always plan the attack around the teams you are playing. We have been analysing Ireland for a while now, how they attack the breakdown. We always look to have a plan.”

The Springbok team for Saturday’s game will be announced at lunchtime on Tuesday. Unlike Ireland, who hobbled into Durban on Sunday after the bruising game the evening before, it is understood the bulk of the team that played in Pretoria are fit and available for selection.