Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — South Africa delivered a commanding performance with a bonus-point 49-18 victory over Tonga, positioning themselves on the cusp of the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals. Flyhalf Handre Pollard’s triumphant return to action added to the Springboks’ success, reaffirming their status as defending champions.

In their final pool game, the Springboks crossed the try line seven times, significantly boosting their chances of advancing as they head into a critical clash between Ireland and Scotland next weekend. This match will determine the two teams that progress from Pool B.

Pollard, who was called up to the World Cup squad as an injury replacement and made his first test appearance in over a year, had a flawless night with the boot, converting the first four tries to maintain a perfect 100% conversion rate. His outstanding performance prompted his substitution after 50 minutes, a decision fully supported by Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.

Pollard’s tactical kicking and efficient orchestration of the backline were particularly impressive, considering he had played just 30 minutes of club rugby in the past four months leading up to Sunday’s match.

Nienaber expressed his satisfaction, saying, “Brilliant to get 50 minutes into his legs, get exposed to international rugby. It’s a big stepping stone for him, and we can build from there.”

Manie Libbok took over from Pollard and maintained the high standard, successfully converting all three attempts at goal. This performance not only secured a vital victory but also addressed the goal-kicking issues that had plagued South Africa in their previous 13-8 loss to Ireland.

The return of Pollard, South Africa’s first-choice flyhalf, from injury provides valuable depth and options for the Springboks as they advance in the tournament. However, their place in the knockout stages is not yet guaranteed, and they will eagerly await the outcome of the upcoming matches to determine their fate.

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