Handré Pollard admitted that the Stormers’ youngsters made it difficult for Leicester Tigers to execute their plan in the opening-round of the Champions Cup clash at Welford Road.
The Stormers, without a host of Springboks and star players left in Cape Town to prepare for the home match against defending champions La Rochelle, came within three minutes of securing a stunning result after taking a surprise 17-10 lead at half-time in Leicester.
It was only a 23-point haul from Pollard, who sent wing Josh Bassett over for the bonus-point try in the final play of the match, that secured the Tigers a 35-26 victory and denied the visitors a deserved losing bonus point.
“It wasn’t an ideal first 40 for us; credit to the Stormers though, they brought in a physicality and an intensity that was pretty good and their kicking game was unbelievable first half,” Pollard told TNT Sports after the match.
“They put us under pressure, but we had a good chat at half-time, a few tough words, and luckily we turned it around in the second half.
“Not ideal, not perfect, but we’ll definitely take the win.
“[Leicester coach] Dan [McKellar] is not an angry guy, he’s a pretty chilled guy, but to see him revved up was brilliant,” Pollard added.
“We just said we’ve got a good plan, we knew our plan was the right plan, we just didn’t execute in the first half. But again, credit to the Stormers, they didn’t allow us to do that.”
Another impressive performance from Handre Pollard 👏
— Rugby on TNT Sports (@rugbyontnt) December 10, 2023
Pollard’s opposite number and fellow Paarl Gimnasium old boy Jurie Matthee scored 16 points, including a well-taken drop-goal, on his debut for the Stormers.
There were also outstanding performances from locks Connor Evans and Hendre Stassen, who started their first game together as a second-row pair, and try-scoring No 8 Keke Morabe.
“Of course, they [Stormers] left a few big names at home but they’ve got a lot of depth,” Pollard said.
“There’s a lot of depth in South African rugby and we felt that tonight, unbelievable effort from them.
“It’s definitely more relief but we’ll enjoy it still. We’ll go back and work hard because we know there’s a big challenge coming for us in Paris.”
Read original story on www.sarugbymag.co.za