Thursday 19 October 2017

Thinus Delport claims "Pollard has become our Sexton"

4 November 2014: South Africa's Handre Pollard during squad training ahead of their Autumn International Rugy match against Ireland on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium (Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE)
4 November 2014: South Africa's Handre Pollard during squad training ahead of their Autumn International Rugy match against Ireland on Saturday at the Aviva Stadium (Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Former South African full-back Thinus Delport has backed Handre Pollard to become as crucial to the Springboks as Johnny Sexton is to Ireland.

Pollard has been a revelation since making his debut against Scotland in June. The 20-year-old out-half scored two tries in his side's epic Rugby Championship win against New Zealand last time out and is widely regarded as the coming star of world rugby.

Delport, who made 18 appearances for the Boks, has likened his style of play to that of Sexton's and believes that he has all the attributes to fulfil what is an undoubted abundance of potential.

"Pollard has been outstanding. He's got such a mature head on his shoulders," Delport said.

Distribution

"He's attacking the line with intent and he's not afraid to get involved in the physical side of the game. He's very much like Sexton in that regard except he's a few years younger.

"His distribution is top-class and he really gets the backline moving. His kicking from the tee is very good but if there's one aspect of his game that needs improving, it's his tactical kicking. The attacking edge that he adds is crucial to the Springboks' game plan," he added.

With South Africa having ended the All Blacks' unbeaten run which lasted almost two years, Delport acknowledged that they will go into tomorrow's game high on confidence and looking to build towards the World Cup. "There's a whole new confidence now and they've added another dynamic to their game and are carrying much more ball in hand. A lot of that is probably down to Pollard," Delport added.

"Ireland will be tough up front but the conditioning of the Springboks' players has been so impressive. They're no longer a 60-minute team. They've shown that they can keep up the intensity for the entire 80. That's not something that's always been the case in the past."

Delport pointed to the absences of Cian Healy and Rory Best but maintained that Ireland still have enough quality to trouble the Boks.

"The scrum will be key and the lock partnership of (Victor) Matfield and (Eben) Etzebeth is very exciting. (Duane) Vermeulen at the back of the scrum has been in sublime form as well so the side really does have a formidable look to it," the former Gloucester and Worcester player stated.

"Throughout the core of both sides, there are key leaders and it's a matter of which of those stands up."

Delport also backed Joe Schmidt's decision to pair Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne in midfield.

"The centre partnership is fascinating. I haven't seen too much of either guy but if they've been playing well for their clubs, what better game to try them out than against the second best team in the world?"

Sky Sports is showing all of Ireland's Autumn Internationals as part of an unrivalled Autumn of Sport. Sky customers can call 0818 719819 to avail of some great half-price Sports offers.

Irish Independent

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