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Kiss Loves The Challenge Of ‘Fronting Up’ Against ‘Boks

Kiss Loves The Challenge Of ‘Fronting Up’ Against ‘Boks

Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss insists 20-year-old out-half Handré Pollard holds the key to sparking the Springboks’ attack, as he looks forwards to Saturday’s opening GUINNESS Series encounter.

After making his debut against Scotland in June, kicking five conversions and a penalty, rising South African star Handré Pollard went on to make five starts in the recent Rugby Championship.

Pollard scored 19 points, including two tries, in their memorable 27-25 victory over the All Blacks in the final game of the tournament and for Les Kiss, the 2014 IRB Junior Player of the Year provides the platform from which to launch exciting backs such as Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks and Willie le Roux.

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“They have got a layer of unpredictability about themselves. Willie le Roux (at full-back) has been a massive part of that. He’s certainly been able to allow them to play from deeper because he does have a good set of hands, he can move to space quickly, he has a little chip game,” said Kiss.

“Patrick Lambie is now back fully fit, but I think Handré Pollard (pictured below), the young Under-20 out-half, has given them a bit more reliability about how they get the ball into that second, third channel but he can also challenge that front line.

“He’s more of a carrier as well, so you have to stay really bolted on in that front line as well. In saying that, when they shift to the wing, their wings generally aren’t kicking.”

Ireland have beaten the Springboks just four times in 21 Test matches – the November 2009 clash at Croke Park being their last win. Saturday’s much-anticipated encounter sees the reigning Six Nations champions going up against the world’s second-ranked side.

Kiss believes that the Irish defence needs to be extra alert to combat the Springboks’ kicking and running games which are equally as threatening. 

“Habana, Hendricks, (JP) Pietersen, they generally like to run the ball. So now they’re getting more access to the ball by virtue of having those players inside. It’s an exciting game, but it does challenge you. Because you have to keep the front line engaged which then makes their kicking space even more potent. 

“It’s a double-edged sword – how do you still defend the front line when they will run it wider and still be able to cover the spaces they will kick to at times?

“They do have a very good kicking game that can hurt you before you know it…turn you around and suddenly you’re in your own half before you know it. It’s a massive challenge defensively.”

Kiss was defence coach for the Springboks in 2001/02 and while the Australian insists they have changed a lot since then, he feels they have better structures in place now that have the squad in the best position possible.

Current South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer and their Belfast-born defence coach John McFarland, who were both involved during Kiss’ stint there, remain good friends of his. He feels the pair, along with Johann van Graan, have made impressive strides in developing the Springboks’ game.

“If I looked at the team then to now, it’s not so much chalk and cheese but there are a lot of differences. There are still some core strengths that are still prevailing but they have been really ambitious in where they want to take the game,” admitted the Ireland assistant coach.

“They have actually done the right thing within their own structures in South Africa in terms of getting access to the players, in certain time-frames so they can prepare better. They are getting the results from that.

“I’ve got a lot of good friends from there. It was a great rugby experience for me. I learnt a lot from the South Africans and from their coaches that are there at the moment, and I do love the challenge of fronting up against them. It is always a massive challenge.

“The last time we played them here, we had the ascendancy at 12-3 at one stage. A couple of binnings either way, they made the most of our sin-bin and ended up getting the game 16-12. We know it will be a tight affair but I’m looking forward to playing against them again.”