Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham broke a young David Pocock’s heart but the pair's relationship could be critical to the Wallabies' World Cup campaign this time around.
Pocock was an 11-year-old in Zimbabwe when the then South Africa fan watched Wallabies flyhalf Larkham knock the Springboks out of the World Cup with an incredible extra-time drop goal.
Twelve years on, Pocock single-handedly dragged the Wallabies into the 2011 World Cup semi-final, with one of the best individual performances of the tournament, including 26 tackles.
Two of the men whose most famous World Cup moments at the demise of South Africa, three World Cups apart, have since grown to develop a powerful relationship.
Larkham has had a strong influence on the openside flanker and was a major factor in Pocock’s decision to switch from the Western Force to the ACT Brumbies after the 2011 World Cup.
While the former Wallaby shared the Brumbies head coaching job with Laurie Fisher in 2014 before taking the sole reins this season, he has only had a fully fit Pocock this season, after knee injuries ruined his 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Speaking at the Wallabies team announcement on Monday night (AEST), Pocock described Larkham as a “backline genius”.
“I’ve learnt a lot personally, a big part of the reason I moved to the Brumbies was to learn from him," he said..
“I think he obviously is a bit of a genius when it comes to backline play.
“Watching him you can see that that’s sort of transferred into his coaching.”
Just shy of four years and two knee reconstructions since that destructive game against the Springboks, Pocock didn’t want to dwell on the path between World Cups, saying he was just focused on the tournament at hand.
His partnership with Michael Hooper will be a crucial one for the Wallabies through the tournament, in some ways a side effect of Pocock’s long absence that gave Hooper the opportunity to establish himself as the Wallabies number seven.
With Pocock set to take on a different role, slipping into the number eight jumper, his impact will assuredly be different but potentially no less but that doesn't bother him.
“I think like all the players in the team ,you grew up watching the World Cup and that was the pinnacle and you dreamt of playing on that stage,” he said.
“So to be here now, it’s a huge honour to represent Australia on the world stage and a big opportunity.”