Montpellier Pollard expects a ‘chess game’ in the Champions Cup against La Rochelle
Paris (AFP) – Montpellier’s South African fly-half Handre Pollard has said he expects Saturday’s European Champions Cup quarter-final in La Rochelle to look like “a game of chess “.
Montpellier qualify for the quarter-finals for only the second time in their history.
They are heading to last season’s losing runners-up who have the likes of powerful Fijian center Levani Botia and Australian giant Will Skelton in their squad.
“It’s like any play-off, it’s about which team plays the smartest, plays the game of chess the right way,” Pollard, 28, told AFP on Wednesday. .
“We have to stand up physically, if we don’t we don’t stand a chance.
“We have some plans to deal with it and it could be interesting.”
Top 14 leaders Montpellier will be without 125kg second row Paul Willemse after the French striker was sidelined for two months with a knee injury suffered last weekend.
“It’s a big blow. Paulie, we all know he’s a brilliant player, he’s got a huge physical presence,” Pollard said.
“As a leader, he has grown a lot since he started playing international rugby. He will be missed.
– Liebenberg reunion –
Pollard will leave the Mediterranean coast at the end of the season to join English side Leicester Tigers and reunite with former South African sports performance manager Aled Walter.
“It’s a big change in terms of the weather,” Pollard joked.
“Aled Walters is the fitness coach and was with the Springboks at the World Cup.
“I love what he does, how he structures his week and getting his players in the best shape possible. That was a big part of that.
After appearing in all of his country’s Tests in November, his next appearance for the 2019 Rugby World Cup winners is set to come in July’s three-legged series at home to Wales.
“It will be good to be involved in bigger games in the last two months of the season, it’s always great preparation for Test matches,” Pollard said.
“The coaching staff in South Africa demand incredible standards, and as it should be, if you want to stay number one in the world because that’s what we’re trying to do, that’s what we’re working on. “
This weekend, Pollard will meet his captain from when South Africa won the World Junior Championship in 2012, La Rochelle flanker Wiaan Liebenberg.
Liebenberg spent two and a half seasons with Montpellier and will retire at the end of the season to study a Masters in Wealth Management.
“He also has such a great history with Montpellier,” Pollard said.
“It’s always difficult for him to return to play against Montpellier and it’s also his last season before retirement, so he’ll be there to stay in the competition as long as possible and enjoy every moment of it.”
Calendar (GMT times)
Munster (IRL) v Toulouse (FRA) (1400), La Rochelle (FRA) v Montpellier (FRA), Leicester Tigers (ANG) v Leinster (IRL) (1630 each)
Racing 92 (FRA) v Sale Sharks (ENG) (1400)