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Handré Pollard’s attacking repertoire can be boosted by Tony Brown for Springboks clash against Ireland


‘Everyone knows that a big step-up is required next week (against Ireland), but we are pleased with the momentum we built up by defeating Wales,’ says Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus

Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard could learn a few new tricks from attack coach Tony Brown. Picture: Clement Mahoudeau, AFP

Even though they were interrupted by travel issues, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes his team are in the “right frame of mind” to tackle Ireland in next Saturday’s first Test at Loftus Versfeld.

The world champions had a satisfactory outing in the 41-13 victory over Wales in London last weekend, and were hoping to land back home on Monday to continue their preparations for the two-Test series against the Irish in Pretoria.

But their flight from Heathrow Airport was cancelled late on Sunday night, forcing them to spend the night at a hotel before leaving the UK capital on Monday.

Erasmus would have typically had a specific plan in place for the Tuesday, but that was disrupted by their late arrival. But following a session on the same day, two on Wednesday and a last one on Friday, the 39-man squad have been given some time off to be with their families before returning to Pretoria on Sunday.

Erasmus will name his match-23 on Tuesday, and will hope that the likes of Faf de Klerk, Makazole Mapimpi and Edwill van der Merwe shake off their niggles sustained against Wales, which saw them being “managed” in training this week.

De Klerk in particular is the likely starting scrumhalf against Ireland, especially as Cobus Reinach was unavailable for the Welsh game as he is based in France, with the match being played outside the international window.

“We had a good and productive training week despite our flight from London to South Africa being cancelled on Sunday night, and it was pleasing to see how the players who joined us this week stepped back into Test mode and got stuck in at training,” Erasmus said on Friday.

“I believe we are in the right frame of mind for the challenge ahead against the world’s No.2-ranked team.

“We had a chance this week to analyse what we did well against Wales and the areas we need to put more emphasis on going into the Ireland Tests, and we were delighted with the professional manner in which the players made the mindset switch to the Incoming Series.

“Everyone knows that a big step-up is required next week, but we are pleased with the momentum we built up by defeating Wales and getting international game-time under the belt.

“Obviously with new members on our coaching staff, the overseas-based players and new recruits will have some work to do to ensure the entire group is fully aligned in terms of our new structures, but this week served as a good start in that process.”

Some of the new coaches include attack guru Tony Brown and defence mentor Jerry Flannery.

Brown’s influence was already evident at Twickenham as the Boks showed some subtle touches with ball-in-hand – particularly soft hands – and that is something that can add a few new tricks to flyhalf Handré Pollard’s game.

Pollard is a top-class goal-kicker, but lacks the variety in his attacking arsenal that his flyhalf rival, Manie Libbok, boasts in spades.

Libbok’s goal-kicking issues from last year’s World Cup and for the Stormers during the United Rugby Championship is set to result in him missing out on the No.10 jersey to Pollard against Ireland, but he offers a real attacking threat the Boks can utilise in the second half.

The Boks will hope that spending the last few weeks in training with Brown will have expanded Pollard’s horizons in his play-making repertoire, in order to keep the Irish defence guessing.

“We conceded one try (against Wales), which was their line-out and we won the ball, and it bounced into their hands,” Erasmus said.

“They could’ve scored two other tries – the one where Edwill did fantastic defensive work, and a few times, we were on our tryline.

“But I thought Tony’s feel for the game and his understanding – not that Felix (Jones didn’t have those skills) … Felix was awesome and one of the best coaches I’ve worked with.

“But Tony definitely brings a little bit of a more naturalness, if I can call it that, to our attacking game – with certain principles. We scored five tries, which is great for him.

“On Jerry’s side, we only conceded one, which is great for him.

“Sacha (Feinberg-Mngomezulu) came on and he kicked really well. I know Jordan missed one. Tony helps the kickers out, Stokke (Mzwandile Stick) does the off-the-ball work, which was done pretty well. Deon (Davids) does the line-outs, Daan (Human) the scrums, which went okay.

“Overall, everybody is pulling their weight.”

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