South Africa flyhalf Handre Pollard proved the man for the occasion again, kicking all the points to lead his side to another Rugby World Cup victory on Saturday just weeks after he was called up for the tournament in France.
The 29-year-old slotted over the four first-half penalties that proved enough to ensure the Springboks won a record breaking fourth World Cup after edging out traditional rivals New Zealand 12-11 in the final.
Pollard was not supposed to be at the tournament in France, battling a calf injury for months and left out of the original 33-man squad.
Pollard had been the hero four years ago when he kicked 22 points in the 32-12 win over 2019 World Cup final against England in Yokohama. He was also key with the boot when the Springboks beat the British & Irish Lions in their 2021 series.
Pollard trained with South Africa in June but could not prove his fitness by the time of the deadline for the submissions of squads for the tournament.
There was a lucky break for him, however, one week into the World Cup when hooker Malcolm Marx suffered a serious knee injury and was ruled out.
Pollard had by then played a few minutes for his club Leicester in a pre-season warm-up game and the South African coaches gambled by calling him up to replace Marx.
While Manie Libbok had emerged as an exciting replacement at flyhalf, his place kicking was inconsistent and the return of Pollard meant South Africa would make better use of their penalty opportunities
Pollard proved his fitness in a pool game against Tonga, came on to help the Boks edge hosts France 29-28 in the quarter-finals and knocked over a kick to win the semi-final against England.
“Manie perhaps deserved to play but the one thing that we have is 33 players that are right players, not necessarily the best,” said coach Jacques Nienaber when asked about drafting Pollard into the squad.
“When we go with a strategy for the game, those left out of the team accept their role.”