Port Elizabeth – From coping with the emotions of losing in the final of the Junior World Championships in New Zealand to making his Springbok debut against Scotland in Port Elizabeth, Handre Pollard experienced a roller coaster of a week.
Instead of succumbing to the pressure, Pollard embraced the experience and proved in the Springboks' 55-6 demolition of the Scots that the hype that surrounds him is not merely that.
“From a week ago – I was still in New Zealand where we lost that final by a point, I was disappointed and sad – to where I am sitting now after playing in my Springbok match with a victory, it went from a very low to an extremely high (point),” Pollard said of his whirlwind week.
“And it went by so quickly that I can hardly remember anything of the match.
“There isn't actually a word that describes the feeling when you (make) your debut for South Africa.”
While 20-year-old Pollard has immense potential as South Africa's incumbent flyhalf, he believes he will have to overcome tougher tests in future.
His appearance in three Junior World Championship tournaments, since winning that competition on South African soil when he was still a schoolboy, has prepared him for the pressures of Test rugby.
Pollard said Super Rugby had exposed him to the pace and physicality of the first-class game.
“Super Rugby prepares you quite well for international rugby. It is very fast and obviously physical but it wasn't that far from tonight,” he said after Saturday's match.
“I think there will be better sides like the All Blacks and there will be another step-up, so I think it was a nice first game to play.
“We play more or less the same structures as the Bulls, luckily we have the same calls at the SA Under-20s and ... it was quite easy to adapt.”
Pollard, the 2014 IRB Junior Player of the Year, played with a composure that belied his young age.
He admitted he was not completely satisfied with his place-kicking on the night but he would be forgiven after a balanced performance where he attacked the line with fervour, while his distribution was also good.
The youngster credited his attacking coach at the Bulls and Springbok captain Victor Matfield, scrumhalf stalwart Fourie du Preez and inside centre Jan Serfontein for their calming influence.
“Vic in the front, Fourie at nine and Jan outside me are the perfect combination for me to play my first game,” he said.
“ (Jan) is an amazing centre and then Fourie brings a calmness and great decision-making to everything.” – Sapa