October 25, 2019 / 6:36 AM / 23 days ago

Let them maul: Springboks will stick to trusted game plan, says Pollard

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Springboks came in for some flak back home for the limited ambition of their game against Japan last weekend but flyhalf Handre Pollard suggested on Friday that there would be little change for the World Cup semi-final against Wales.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - South Africa Captain’s Run - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - October 25, 2019 South Africa's Handre Pollard during the captain's run REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Sunday’s match at Yokohama International Stadium is shaping to be a hugely physical contest, with both teams looking to dominate the set piece and send big ball carriers crashing over the gain line.

The focus on forward domination means South Africa’s lightning-quick outside backs do not see much of the ball, but Pollard said it is a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“If your boys are mauling or handling the set piece like our boys are at the moment, you’re not going to stop, you’re not going to fix something that’s not broken,” he told reporters.

“It’s no secret, the set piece battle coming on Sunday. I’m sure it’ll be much tougher handling it this week than it was last week.

“But as a flyhalf, you just let the boys go, you just keep going forward. It’s my responsibility to keep our big boys going forward for the majority of the game.”

The rain teeming down throughout South Africa’s training session at the stadium on Friday only added to the likelihood of a tight, forward-dominated contest, but Pollard said it would have little impact on their game plan.

“It’s going to be a big set-piece battle, gainline battle, whether it’s dry or wet, so we’re prepared for that,” he said.

“Whatever comes our way we’ll deal with that, but our game works well if it’s dry or wet.”

Pollard said he is convinced the match will come down to a single kick at goal, which means the withdrawal of Wales fullback Liam Williams is not necessarily good news for South Africa.

The injury to Williams means Leigh Halfpenny will wear the red number 15 jersey on Sunday, bringing with him the feet that have kicked 188 penalties and 73 conversions in 88 tests, complementing the equally reliable kicking of Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar.

Pollard, who has had a success rate of 75% with his kicks for points at the tournament so far, said it does not make a huge difference to him who is kicking for Wales.

“He’s a world class goalkicker, we all know that much,” Pollard said of Halfpenny.

“It’s on the day, we all know it’s going to come down to a kick or a drop goal. It’s semi-final rugby, you’ve got to try to be on target every time you kick.”

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by David Goodman

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