With a Rugby World Cup semi-final hanging in the balance, playmaker Handre Pollard propped the ball up on a goal-kicking tee ahead of a decisive shot at the posts. While it’s a cliché, it’s also true that in that moment time stood still.
The hopes of South African and English rugby fans rested on this kick. Pollard looked calm, composed and willing as the fly-half stepped towards the ball and gracefully kicked through it.
With a tactical hook from right to left, Pollard guided the ball through the goalposts for three crucial go-ahead points. The Springboks took the lead for the first time with just over two minutes to play.
South Africa held on for a tense 16-15 win at Stade de France as they booked their ticket to their second consecutive Rugby World Cup final.
It was a team effort as the Boks secured a tough win, but plaudits, praise and thanks must go to one man in particular. Handre Pollard was the hero and even received Player of the Match honours.
With emotions still riding high not long after the end of the thrilling semi-final showdown, captain Siya Kolisi insisted he “had no doubt” that Pollard would convert the penalty.
“I had no doubt at all. He has done it for us before,” Kolisi said.
“We are grateful for the bench but actually for the whole squad. In this team we remind each other that if we are successful we will say that South Africa won, not the 23 that played. The guys who don’t start, they know when they come on there will be opportunities and we all have different roles and we respect that.
“For us to get that scrum, for Ox [Nche] and Vincent [Koch] and Bongi [Mbonambi], who has been amazing. The medical staff have been amazing, the coaching staff have already prepared for the next game. When Pollie took that kick, it was just relief. Also, it gives us a lot of courage.”
The Springboks have earned the right to defend their Rugby World Cup title in France. South Africa will take on fierce rivals New Zealand for another shot at rugby immortality.
Whoever wins will become the first nation to win the sport’s ultimate prize for a record fourth time. History beckons for whoever is good enough to grab the opportunity with both hands next weekend.
“It’s honestly all the hard work we have put in came off,” Kolisi added.
“It was really ugly today but that is what champions are made of. Credit to England, they have worked hard. They were written off before the World Cup. Coach Steve [Borthwick] and Owen [Farrell] and the team pulled themselves together and showed who they are.
“They are not a team you take lightly, all credit to them for being in the semi-final today. To my team as well it was ugly today like it was last week but we found a way to fight back and get back into the game.
“Well done to the boys. I am really proud of the fight that was showed, especially the guys who came off the bench once again.”