John Cooney breaks down the technique that went into the kick to send South Africa to another Rugby World Cup final
Sometimes you don’t realise that adrenaline can carry a kick three to four metres beyond your range.
I had a kick against Cermont before, which was 55 metres. That was out of my range of the time, but the adrenaline added distance, which I didn’t expect. When it’s in and around your range, the tendency is to try and kick the ball harder and kick it further. But that can make it much more likely that you snap-hook it or miss-kick it.
With the Handre Pollard kick to win the Rugby World Cup semi-final against England, he has control but there was something else happening.
The technique going into the Pollard kick
If you watch his kick, he does welly it to ensure his body mass is heading towards the target. He is thinking about finishing the kick.
It was teeming down and conditions also play a factor. There’s nothing worse than slipping, heading into a kick. You don’t want to lean too far with your standing leg and you don’t want to come up too short or you can fall over. With the technique he wanted to use, Pollard was obviously very clear on his objective.
Thomas Ramos is also very good with this – all that matters is to to get your centre of mass moving towards the target. In this scenario, you can see that Pollard literally jumps straight forward, towards the posts. That helps him negotiate the conditions, to cancel out the effect of a wet ball, and it’s also about his accuracy.
with that, he must be thinking about ensuring that his kicking foot lands straight in the follow-through. And he lands directly towards the target. He nailed it.
Now if you look at our main image and how Pollard is jumping, that is unconventional. But it’s beautiful!
It works. His centre mass and body are heading towards the posts. He will jump, but I’ve never seen him do it that much. He must have been slightly worried that it was on the edge of his range, and about the conditions underfoot. He takes the conditions out of it.
The pressure on the winning kick
The pressure for this kick is huge. There’s not long to play and it’s one to make the World Cup final, but then Pollard is an unbelievable kicker and he’s been there before.
It’s cliche, but sticking to the fundamentals of your process is important.
I remember reading the book Golf Is A Game Of Confidence, before playing Edinburgh. I had a similar kick on 80 minutes, to win the game. I was laughing to myself because I’d literally read about this scenario the same day. In it, they talked about golfers coming down the 18th, to win a major. They would think, ‘Well loads of people have been here before – I’m not the first person to be in this position and thrived.’
I think to myself ‘I’m lucky to be here but also other people have thrived in this position, so why can’t I?’ And if you prep well for games, you’ll enjoy that scenario.
When there’s a kick around 50 metres away, sometimes I picture that there’s a set of goal posts directly in front of me. For that one yard, I’m booting the ball to get over those.
Generally that’s what helps me with distance, and if you watch the Pollard kick back, it’s like he’s kicking straight at some posts directly in front of him.