YOKOHAMA, 25 Oct - South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard knows he needs to be bang on target this weekend to keep the Springboks' World Cup hopes alive.
Although the injury-enforced absence of Liam Williams is a major blow for Wales, the selection of Leigh Halfpenny at full-back for Sunday’s semi-final has ramped up the pressure on Pollard, above.
While Halfpenny, below, does not provide the same kind of ball-in-hand attacking threat as Williams, he is one of the best goal-kickers in the world.
Pollard, normally so reliable from the kicking tee, has not been quite on song in Japan. He has a penalty success rate of 75 per cent (six from eight), but only 55 per cent when it comes to conversions (six from 11).
That makes a total of 12 from 19 kicks at goal, which equates to a 63 per cent success rate.
The 25-year-old knows he needs to up his game this weekend as he is convinced the match will be decided by the boot, meaning he or Halfpenny probably holds the key to victory.
“He (Halfpenny) is a world-class goal-kicker, we all know that," Pollard said.
"We all know it’s going to probably come down to a kick or a drop goal. It’s semi-final rugby, so you must try your best to be on target with every kick. If it’s not to be, it’s not to be."
The Welsh boast another fine goal-kicker in Pollard’s opposite number, Dan Biggar, who also has a 75 per cent penalty goal success rate, and has made 90 per cent of conversions.
Pollard is relishing the clash with Biggar, after a classic confrontation in the 2015 quarter-final.
"We went at it four years ago, and I thought he had a brilliant game that day. We really had to play well to win that match," Pollard said of the Boks’ 23-19 victory at Twickenham.
"He is a world-class player, unbelievably good. He is really not scared of the physical part of the match, and that’s something that excites both of us.
"It’s going to be fun to go against him for 80 minutes."
Pollard completed a kicking session at the match venue in Yokohama, below, in rainy conditions on Friday, and while he expects the weather to be similar on Sunday, he feels the Springboks have the ability to adapt their style accordingly.
But he warned his team-mates to be wary of Wales’s approach.
"They know what they are good at, and focus on that," he added. "They are relentless in those areas. They starve you of possession and territory, and enforce their kicking game on you. They take away your set-piece.
"It’s not a gameplan or rugby with a lot of flair in it, but it’s suffocating. If you fall into that trap, they will enforce their gameplan on you for 80 minutes, and you will probably not win the match.
"It’s going to be two sides tactically trying to figure each other out. We have a couple of plans up our sleeves. I’m not going to go into that too much."