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South Africa's fly-half Handre Pollard takes part in a training session at the Mayol Stadium in Toulon. Image Credit: AFP

Toulon: Fly-half Handre Pollard is not expecting a perfect performance in his first Test appearance for South Africa in 13 months but is ready for the “battle” in a must-win Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with Tonga in Marseille on Sunday.

Pollard has overcome a calf injury that was expected to keep him out for four weeks, but turned into a three-month ordeal that meant he missed out on selection for the Springboks’ squad in France.

However, an injury to hooker Malcolm Marx saw him called-up having played only 30 minutes for English side Leicester Tigers since May.

Big jump

“I am going to be realistic about it, the step up to a World Cup is a big jump,” Pollard told reporters on Friday.

“My expectation for myself is just to enjoy it knowing that it will not be perfect. Just get myself into the next battle and then the next battle after that.” Pollard’s return is in no small part due to South Africa’s inaccuracy off the kicking tee. He replaces Manie Libbok in the side, a player perceived to be more dynamic with ball in hand, but who can be erratic going for poles.

“There is a lot of heat on the kickers at the moment but if you see the amount of work they put in, you know it is going to come right any day,” Pollard said.

Attacking style of rugby

“And all the guys in the squad that are kicking have had 100 per cent games in the past, even this year. We all have it in us.

“I don’t speak to Manie too much about it because I know it is a personal thing, if there are too many voices it can be distracting. I am always there for him if he needs any help.”

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Handre Pollard will be returning to the Springbok line-up after a 13-month absence. Image Credit: AFP file

The Boks have played a noticeably more attacking style of rugby since Pollard last played for them in August 2022, and he is excited to be part of that.

Change in mindset

“We know our set-piece, defence and kicking are always going to be the base of our game, 80 per cent will be that,” Pollard said.

“But we are sprinkling in some nice attack at the moment, just a little bit more than we used to. It is a small mindset change for the team, and it is really exciting.

“The set-piece, defence and kicking game can take you a long way, but if you want to win World Cups back-to-back, you need that something extra.”