He may be only 20 years old and have one Test cap in the bag, but Handre Pollard has the potential – and game – to be as good as Dan Carter. That’s the opinion of Springbok boss Heyneke Meyer, who yesterday handed the Junior Boks captain a second start at senior level.
Pollard will don the No10 jersey when the Boks open their Rugby Championship challenge against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
“There are one or two players I can name, one of them is Carter, who have an unbelievable attacking game, but also a good tactical game. You don’t get a lot of No10s like that… they’re either running flyhalves or tactical flyhalves… Handre’s got no grey areas, he’s got everything,” said Meyer yesterday.
The Bok boss said it was the right time to give the Bulls flyhalf a second opportunity after making his debut against Scotland in June. Pollard keeping his place in the side means the experienced Morné Steyn has to be happy with a place on the bench this weekend, while Pat Lambie has been sent back to the Sharks to play Currie Cup rugby tomorrow, to help accelerate his return to full fitness following a lengthy injury lay-off.
“We’re privileged to have a guy like Morné, who kicks everything over and has tons of experience, but we need to find a deputy. We don’t have that long to go to the World Cup.
“Handre is an unbelievable prospect. I’ve watched him since he was 15 and when he played in the Under-16 and Under-19 youth weeks and he’s always impressed me. He’s mentally tough and very mature for his 20 years.
“And a key thing is the players must be able to trust their No10, they must know he’s got a cool head and is calm under pressure… Handre’s shown he’s mentally tough.”
While Meyer spoke highly of Pollard’s attacking and defensive abilities, he did, however, say he could improve his kicking skills.
“Because he’s big and tall his speed and reaction time to kick under pressure will always be a challenge, but his kicking is improving all the time. He’s got a bright future ahead of him and can be a world class No10 going forward.”
While Pollard will have the experienced Jean de Villiers outside him and Ruan Pienaar on his inside, the Bok back division isn’t nearly as settled as Meyer would like it to be. And he admitted he was somewhat concerned about it going into the Rugby Championship.
“We’ve got a lot of continuity in the forwards, but I’m a bit worried about the backs,” said Meyer.
“Bryan Habana and Ruan Pienaar haven’t played any rugby in a long time, the centres (De Villiers and Damian de Allende) are new and they’ve both been out injured, while Cornal Hendricks on the wing is fairly new to the team as well. Then you have Handre.
“I’m excited about the backline, all these new players, but we’re going to have to find our straps quickly. There’s no rhythm yet among the backs, but the positive thing is that by the time the World Cup comes around we’re going to be able to pick two excellent backlines.”
SPRINGBOK STARTING XV: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers (capt), Bryan Habana, Handré Pollard, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager, Bakkies Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Hougaard, Morné Steyn, Jan Serfontein - The Star