Wallaby David Pocock deals with 'cheat' tag
RICHARD KNOWLER IN AUCKLAND
Now it is David Pocock's turn to fend off the "cheat'' taunt.
Over the last decade one of the most popular pre-match rituals by All Blacks' opponents has been to toss the "cheat'' tag at Richie McCaw and see if the mud sticks.
But after his all-powerful performance during last weekend's 11-9 win over the Springboks in their World Cup quarterfinal in Wellington, Wallabies No 7 Pocock is now dodging much of the flak that has traditionally been reserved for the All Blacks captain.
Pocock produced one of his best efforts in the green and gold jersey against the Boks as he continually created mayhem by attacking the ball at the breakdown, slowed down possession and created turnovers and will be looking to again carve-up in Sunday night's semifinal against the All Blacks.
For disgruntled South African fans, it has been almost too much; egged on by Boks captain John Smit they have this week vented their fury at Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence for allowing the Aussies, and chiefly Pocock, for getting away with murder at the breakdown.
"I think that is pretty standard for most No 7s,'' Pocock maintained when presented with the "cheat'' label at a press conference today.
"It has been pretty funny this week, checking the twitter timeline every now and then for the South African fans (feedback). It has been good humour.''
Tens of thousands Boks supporters are reported to have flooded some websites to launch their arrows at Lawrence who has not been asked by the IRB to referee either of this weekend's semis.
Pocock's uncanny ability to stay on his feet and support his own weight while digging for the ball has not been appreciated by the South Africans who lost their own fetcher Heinrich Brussow early in the match with a rib injury.
For his part, Pocock preferred to plead ignorance when asked why the "cheat'' moniker was being sent his way.
"I have no idea. I really don't know. I will leave that to you guys (the media) to talk about.''
South African Craig Joubert has been appointed to control the southern hemisphere semi, while Ireland's Alain Rolland will whistle the all northern play-off between Wales and France on Saturday night.
One thing is certain for the semi: Pocock will not be changing his robust style at the breakdown and he explained that facet of his job description was simple.
"You have to try and get in there as quick as you can and as an arriving player and if the ruck is not formed you have got all the rights. And you continue to have the rights if you have got your hands on the ball. That is the main focus and then just listen to see what the referees are saying.''
Like McCaw, Pocock has had his share of injury problems during the World Cup but his effort against the Boks at the Cake Tin proved he was well over the back complaint that troubled him earlier in the tournament.
Despite speculation that McCaw's foot injury is far worse than he is letting on, Pocock was adamant the adrenaline and the massive stakes of the semi would ensure he took the field.
"I think at this stage of the tournament there would be not too many blokes who aren't carrying some sort of injury. Come game night you put all that behind you and you don't notice anything.''
Meanwhile, Kurtley Beale's hamstring strain forced him to sit out training on the North Shore this morning which means James O'Connor may drop back from wing to fullback as cover if he is not fit.
"We are still optimistic but obviously he still working pretty hard on his rehab and trying to do everything he can do,'' captain James Horwill said. "But that is up to the medical staff and the selectors to make that decision when the time comes to select the team.
"He is doing everything he can to be right to play.''
Which rugby player would you be most inclined to bend selection rules for?