South Africa’s Pollard sees World Cup final ‘chess match’

South Africa's Handre Pollard, right, hugs Wales' Josh Adams following their Rugby World Cup semifinal at International Yokohama Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. (AP)
Updated 27 October 2019

South Africa’s Pollard sees World Cup final ‘chess match’

  • Pollard stroked four penalties
  • England produced one of their finest performances

YOKOHAMA: South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard predicted a “chess match” against England in next weekend’s Rugby World Cup final, warning the Springboks were prepared to “grind it out” against Eddie Jones’s men.
Pollard stroked four penalties and a conversion in a man-of-the-match performance that took South Africa to within one game of a third World Cup trophy with a 19-16 win.
But he said the Springboks had a mountain to climb against an England side that played “unbelievably well” against the All Blacks in the other semifinal.
“Physically they stepped it up to a new level so we’re going to have to stop them... I think it’s two sides that really pride themselves on a good kicking game as well. So, it’s going to be a good chess match,” said Pollard.
England produced one of their finest performances to dismantle the All Blacks 19-7 on Saturday and will likely go into the final favorites after South Africa edged past Wales in a scrappy encounter.
Pollard said South Africa had been prepared to dig in for victory against Wales and would do the same if necessary come Saturday.
“Grinding it out is something we believe in. That’s what it takes to win play-off games and World Cups,” said the fly-half.
“We weren’t accurate at stages but we ground it out and that’s something we’ll take a lot of confidence off going into next week,” he added.
Pollard said he expected to come up against the England playmaking combination of Owen Farrell and George Ford, and made no effort to hide his admiration for the two English stars.
“They’ll probably go Ford-Farrell again. That’s a pretty good combo. Doesn’t get much better than that!” he told reporters.
He admitted to some nerves as he took the decisive penalty at 16-16 to break Welsh hearts but said he had trained for such moments, both mentally and in terms of technique.
“You want to be in those positions as a fly-half and as a kicker. You want to have that pressure on you and you execute,” he said.
Meanwhile, scrum-half Faf de Klerk said South Africa had learned a lot from England’s performance against the All Blacks that they could use against Eddie Jones’s men.
And de Klerk pointed to discipline as the main area for Springbok improvement after South Africa conceded nine penalties against the Welsh.
“The main thing is going to be penalty count. Our penalty count was way too high,” said de Klerk.


Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

Updated 11 December 2019

Russian athletics champ blasts own sports authorities

  • Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation

MOSCOW: Russian high jump world champion Maria Lasitskene on Tuesday accused her country’s own sports authorities of failing to protect athletes from the deepening doping crisis, in a rare public broadside at top officials.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday handed Russia a new, this time four-year, ban from top global sporting events, including the next summer and winter Olympics and the 2022 soccer World Cup, for tampering with laboratory data.

The ruling means Russian athletes cleared to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will do so under a neutral flag. But Lasitskene and some other Russian track and field athletes face additional obstacles to being cleared for competition.

“I’ve already missed one Olympics and one-and-a-half years of international competition,” Lasitskene wrote in an open letter addressed to Russia’s sports authorities.

“And it seems that’s not the end of it. So who ultimately is to blame? Who’s going to give me back what I’ve lost?” she wrote in the letter published on Russian sports media outlet Championat.Com.

Lasitskene, a three-time world champion, has in the past been critical of Russia’s athletics federation, which has been suspended for doping since 2015, and has been one of the few Russian athletes to voice her anger publicly.

World Athletics, the global body governing athletics, last month halted the reinstatement procedures for Russia’s athletics federation after its president and six others were provisionally suspended for serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

As a result of these fresh sanctions, World Athletics also said it was reviewing the process it has used in the past to clear some Russians, including Lasitskene, to compete internationally as neutrals.

“Why have we arrived at a situation when an athlete is supposed to be delighted about getting neutral status?” Lasitskene wrote.

“Was the Sports Ministry and Russian Olympic Committee really happy with the Russian athletics federation’s work?”

The president of Russia’s Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, on Monday dismissed the sanctions against Russia as inappropriate and excessive.