Pollard's Bokkies won't stop believing
Junior Springbok captain Handre Pollard believes that the fighting spirit his side have shown throughout the JWC will be crucial in the Final.
Junior Springbok captain Handre Pollard believes that the fighting spirit his side have shown throughout the Junior World Championships will be crucial in the Final.
The South African Under-20 side were forced to come from behind to win their semifinal against hosts New Zealand in dramatic style on Sunday, which continued a trend of dominant second-half performances for them in the tournament.
Pollard believes the mental strength they have shown so far will be key if they are to beat defending champions England who have also gone through their campaign unbeaten so far.
"This whole tournament we have been a bit down in the first half and we have come to grow and believe that with two minutes left on the clock we can win this game and that is something great that I love about this side.
"You don't coach that, it is just something that comes with the team and comes with the characters in the side so it is a big bonus for us, a big positive and we can keep believing no matter what the score is until the last minute. Hopefully we are not behind going into the last minute but we are going to have belief right until the end," he said.
The Bulls flyhalf was part of the 2012 Junior Bok side that won the title on home soil, and was nominated as one of the Junior Players of the Year this week after becoming the tournament's all-time highest points scorer.
"It is a great honour, it is not something you plan. You come to the World Cup as a side and you want to get good results as a side so getting this nomination means a lot to me but at the end of the day I really want to win the World Cup," he said.
However, he knows his side will have their work cut out for them against a physical and well-drilled England outfit.
"England are always a physical side so they will definitely be strong up front. I think they are more structured than any other side we have played in the competition, we played New Zealand twice and Samoa and they have more expansive gameplans where they throw the ball around.
"I think England are a lot more structured so it will be interesting because we are also quite a structured side and we will stick to what we know so at the end of the day I think it will be the side that wants it the most," he said.
The Junior Bok skipper highlighted the set-piece as a key area on Friday, although he will certainly not be underestimating the abilities of the England backline.
"The set-piece is the biggest thing going into a final, I know in our 2012 Junior World Championship Final that we won we won all 17 of our line-outs.
"It is something you can't play without in a final and it is the conversion rate that you have to get points every time, whether it is three, five or seven you need to take points every time you get into the opposition half.
"We have got a more physical backline with strong, big boys and England have got a quality backline all-round from nine to 15, so I think it is going to be interesting.
"It is going to be a tussle and it is going to be one or two opportunities either side that is going to win this game," he explained.
Having won the JWC when he was still at school, Pollard knows that one of the biggest challenges for his side will be to keep their focus in the heat of the final.
"We just need to stay calm, there will be enough things around the game to get you psyched up so we just need to stay calm and focus on our plan. We must not get too emotionally involved in a game because then it is easy to lose your focus.
"The guys are excited, I think we have got a good calmness about us. It is no use getting too excited three days before the time so we are quite clam and just letting the guys be and I am sure on the day when we jog out at Eden Park it will come to realise and they will be fired up for the game," he explained.
Pollard added that playing at Eden Park will be a special honour as he looks to make it two JWC titles in three years.
"What a historical ground, being the World Cup Final three years ago it brings so much more to it. You don't just play for your country, you also play for the whole occasion and the honour of playing on that field. The people that have played on that field before - that is the amazing part of it so I am looking forward to it.
"For me it is just what it is going to mean to the rest of the guys, to win this trophy means a lot for your rugby career going forward and for me to know that I could have helped them and boost them to go forward and accomplish great things," he said.