Junior Springbok captain and flyhalf Handré Pollard and his team mates are relishing the prospects of playing home team New Zealand Under-20 in the feature semi-final of the IRB Junior World Championship at the QBE Stadium in Albany, Auckland.
The Vodacom Bulls flyhalf will play in his third consecutive semi-final after making his JWC debut in 2012 on home soil in South Africa. In 2012 he won the JWC title as a schoolboy while last year he was in the exciting Junior Boks team that finished third in France.
He also has the distinction of finishing on the winning side in all three his previous outings against the New Zealanders at the annual JWC tournament. On Sunday morning (SA time) he and his team mates must line-up against the Baby Blacks once more, with a final place next week at Eden Park as reward for the winning side.
The Junior Boks have shrugged off their early tournament injury woes which saw them having four players on the sideline at one stage. They also came through unbeaten after safely navigating tough encounters against Scotland, New Zealand and Samoa. The last match was played in testing conditions, with an ice-cold wind and swirling rain in Pukekohe.
Speaking to media on Friday afternoon during a promotional photo shoot at the Auckland waterfront, Pollard mentioned that good mood of the side and exciting prospects of playing the strong home team for a second time in the tournament.
“There is a very good mood in our camp. We are excited by the prospects of playing NZ at home again. It will be daunting task but the guys are looking forward to play because this is a vital match and a must win situation,” said Pollard.
He added his team has taken a lot of confidence from their pool win over New Zealand, but each player knows it will be much harder come Sunday.
“Our team has a real desire to play in the final and we realise that if we want to achieve that then we must be clinical and take our opportunities. We all know that New Zealand is a side that can punish you severely for making mistakes,” added Pollard.
According to the big SA number 10, he has personally learnt a lot from playing in two previous semi-finals. “It it is more of a mental challenge than anything else. There is all the hype, excitement and huge build-up to the match but as a team you need to stay in your system so that you can execute your plan well,” explained the Junior Boks captain.
Defending champions England and Ireland will meet in the earlier semifinal at 07h05.
The match kicks off at 09h35 SA time at the QBE Stadium in Albany, Auckland in New Zealand and will be televised live on SuperSport.