One of the most important building blocks of any sport is match practice.
In boxing, it is said that you can screen as much as you want, but that time in the middle of the fight (a fight) is most important. In cricket it is said that you can practice in the nets every day, but you have to spend time in the middle (match).
Rugby players can be drawn in the same way: you can practice as much as you want, but if you lack match practice, there are horses.
This is why the trouble with Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard is getting tougher and tougher.
According to the Springbok camp, Pollard, who has not played for months due to a knee and calf injury, is very close to filling his place. But he remains involved in a race against time before the World Cup kicks off in France in about six weeks.
The Boks still play in just three warm-up games: this coming Saturday against Argentina in Buenos Aires, on Saturday 19 August against Wales in Cardiff and on Friday 25 August against the All Blacks at Twickenham.
If all goes to plan, Pollard will hopefully play against Wales and the All Blacks before the Springboks take on Scotland in their first World Cup match in Marseille on September 10.
If Pollard is not fit, Damian Willemse or Manie Libbok will have to fill his shoes. Libbok was in the Boks’ starting team against the Wallabies and Poemas and Willemse were the no. 10 jersey worn.
Did either of them do enough to play against the Irish, French or All Blacks in France? Did they convince enough? Can they dominate the game and close the bag when it really matters? Both have bubbling talent, but is it enough? What about kicks to the posts under pressure? What about touchline kicks?
Pollard already made his debut for the Boks against Scotland in 2014. He scored a total of 665 points in 68 test matches (of which he was in the starting team 54 times). The Boks won 38 times with him in the team, drew three times and lost 27 times, for a winning record of less than 60%.
Compare that to Ireland’s Johnny Sexton (62.73% winning record), the French’s Romain Ntamack (66.66% winning record) and the All Blacks’ Richie Mo’unga (80% winning record).
This is why the danger lights should be flashing, especially if Pollard has not sufficiently recovered or is properly match fit.