Home #LoveRugby Oom Rugby-Pollard is no playmaker

Oom Rugby-Pollard is no playmaker


Oom Rugby is looking this week at Springbok Handre Pollard 

Hi guys, this past weekend was a great few days of rugby, especially because I was privilege to be at Ellis Park with the passionate Lion supporters to watch the wonderful Sharks game. What a lekker experience and performance from both teams! And in Hamilton earlier that day, the Bulls lost but show lot more focus and intent against the Chiefs.

This game was also interesting because the Bulls defence was much better, but then on attack sometimes they just did not always click. One thing they did that work well was that they “changed direction” often after a ruck – so they play one way but then at the next ruck they switch and play back the other way, especially after a set piece. I am sure this was pre-planned for how the Chiefs defenders fold from ruck to ruck. Often the first receiver with this switches was the excellent Burger Odendaal who many times find space on the short side.

But on a few other occasions when the Bulls was playing more traditional off 10, from ruck to ruck, the backs did not seem to be able to make anything happen.

When I had a closer look I notice that sometimes the problem seem to be Handre who often stand too deep, or should I say he distribute too deep. Take a look at the picture below.

Handre is about to pass the ball but he do it so early that the aggressive Chiefs defenders can now just change direction and attack the remaining Bulls runners. It is like a hospital pass for his whole backline.

If Handre was taking the ball flatter, or if he was coming up faster and playing later, then there is more mystery and the inside Chief defenders must stay where they are to see what is going to develop. We take away their time. It is no use to run your moves early and deep, and the opposition can just wait and watch and then attack the final receiver.

Below is a example of nice flatness and running onto the ball by Lood of all people. Take a look.

Lood is taking the ball in motion and he is quite flat and close to the Chiefs defensive line. They must cover him – he is a option to carry, but he can also pass inside and outside. Chiefs can not drift or shift outside – you can see the difference.

But guys now I want to tell you something that I find very, very interesting…

I have a strong feeling that the reason Handre does not usually play flatter or later is because he can not do it.

I watched him very closely, and guys he is not comfortable trying to pick runners when he is playing late and close to the opposition defence. He seem to get flustered and get a tunnel vision and then often his execution suffer. His passes drop short or they go high, as we see in two quick examples below from the Chief game.

Now I know you are thinking that this is a big claim to make. I am in the essence saying that Handre can not fulfil the role of a modern flyhalf. But guys, what if I tell you that I notice this tendency in Handre two years ago and that I collected some video clips of it back then already because I find it so interesting.

Handre will take the ball flat, but when he have to pick a runner he mess up the pass or he will rather just not pass at all and go into contact. Below is three quick examples from old games.

So I will stick my neck out and say that Handre is not a guy who is able to play flat. It is not fear – we know he is hell of a tough guy. I feel it is a mental and perception thing that some guys is able to do and some not.

When he is presented with multiple options, with crowded space, under pressure, he is often unable to make a quick choice and execute his decision effectively. It is as if there is too much going on. And as I say, his “fail safe” often is just rather to take contact and not pass at all.

I know what I am saying and I do not take it lightly. I am saying that he possibly lack an important skill that is needed to be a international flyhalf. A 10 must be able to vary his depth and play deep and flat and bring his strike options into play right at the faces of the opposition.

Maybe coaches can work with him, maybe it is something that will come with time, and of course maybe I am totally wrong!

But when I ask myself why Handre don’t play flatter, and when I look at the evidence I have seen over the years, this game finally cement it for me that it is not something I feel he can do effectively. It is something that sometimes burden the Bulls backs, and I am sure we do not want it to burden the Bok backs.

Take care guys, and we will chat again soon.

Thanks to

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  1. Drawing players before passing is still a major (if not basic) flaw amongst many South African players the past few seasons…

  2. Interesting! And then we are in deep shit – as he, Bambi and Jantjes seem to be the front runners for the Proteas. Bambi is a bit fragile at the moment (in terms of injuries or form). And Jantjes – less said, the better! Do we trust youngsters like Bosch / Du Plessis / Du Preez, as surely we cannot go with the Cheetah or Kings paloekas?

  3. Bekke I for one would say we could maybe back Bosch, but not too soon, as we tend to break bok 10’s rather than help them fulfill their potential. The problem highlighted is something that could be worked on in Pollard, but it needs to then be done at Bulls level, by a coach that coaches option taking. Their was a lady working with the Boks while Jake was coaching them, Calder was her surname, or something like it.

    We have plenty of talent at 10, but each one has deffinciencies, what we need to do is select one, stick to him and work on his shortcomings. If it is Pollard, then work on his peripheral vision, if Jantjies then work on his BMT, if Lambie, work on conditioning, if Bosch, fark, give him another year of superrugby to grow a bit.

  4. @Aldo:

    I agree 100%. This is what should be happening at provincial level, coaches should identify shortcomings in their contracted players and develop a plan to rectify it through coaching.

    In SA we seem to have this attitude of rather just discarding a player for the next bright light on the horizon. Maybe the one negative of having so many young players coming through continuously.

    In this instance, in 2014 Pollard was seen as the next best thing and 3 years (keep in mind he was off for one of those years) later we are talking of his possible replacements.

  5. What I find worrying is that I am almost convinced the brains trust at the Bulls have not been working on these shortcomings in Pollard’s game.

  6. @Aldo: What I find even worse is that these players are professional players, this is what feeds them and buys them houses. They should know their shortcomings and work on improving at them.

    Morne Steyn (Yes I know not everyone is a fan) came to the Bulls as a kicker with a 60% success rate. But he spent hours working on it and became one of the best goal kickers the game has seen. That is what I expect to see from these players. make an effort to find your shortcomings and work on them.

  7. Although I understand Oom Rugby views, Pollard did not play like this when he was under Meyer and all this is coach-able in my view and to dd Bulls pack has given their backs useless ball all season

  8. Love to have Mr Oom do an eval of the Messerschmitt-Willie LeRoux.
    Only problem?
    It would be such a syrupy writing chocked full of heavy praise that critics would claim he was paid by the SunKing himself to do the article.

    It was ALWAYS gonna be touch & go for Handy Pollard when he didn’t go to Cheetahs in a trade for the Goose.
    We are now having to deal with the fallout of ZeeBulls “Deathcamp of Talent”.
    Thanks Sweets Marais…..
    For NOTHING.

  9. Oom may have a point on pollard but I seen him attack the adv line. The most talented natural glyalf for me is Goodenough, but I think he’s toasting marshmallows in a french tronk, pity.

    WLR and Bosch – massive playmakers. Those are 4 flyhakves to stick with not lamby or pollard. Lamby safe as houses Boks need more. I think Boks capable of being best playmaker, not worst. Only our coaches got no clue. Coach all creative talent right out these youngsters. Useless.

  10. My 4 flyhalves: goosen, Bosch, WLR and pollard. Plenty playmaker talent. Jantjies and lamby not for me.

  11. @Benedict Chanakira:

    I know that you were responding to my post ( thanks by the way)
    We both know that what was really going on while typing up your reply was you were thinking about what an amazing interview you & Mr Oom would have & what title you would use on Ruggaworld to let everyone know about the chocked full truth within.
    “BC & Oom….Bring IT”

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