Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer may be itching to pull the trigger on a call-up for Handre Pollard, but the Baby Boks captain will on Friday have his sights set on one thing - helping South Africa beat England in the Junior World Championship final at Eden Park.
South Africa are one win away from clinching their second such title, having previously won the 2012 edition of a tournament that was inaugurated in 2008.
Dawie Theron’s team have twice beaten hosts New Zealand, four-time winners, in recent weeks, and Pollard’s influence in both a 33-24 pool stage win and last week’s 32-25 semi-final victory was immense.
“I lift my hat to the way the guys kept fighting in that semi-final and never gave up,” Theron said on Wednesday.
“People have asked me to pick out five or six guys who have come out as stars in this tournament and I don’t want to do that.
“There’s only one guy I’ve got to mention and that’s Handre Pollard.
“The way he’s led this team and the way he’s taken what we wanted to do onto the field… his maturity makes him stand out.
“He never gets too excited about things, he’s a big student of the game and he’s got good rugby philosophies.
“He always carries that over to the players and he leads in a very quiet, mature way.”
The 20-year-old flyhalf from Paarl Gymnasium has emerged as the JWC’s all-time leading points-scorer with 131 points, and Pollard has consequently been short-listed for the IRB’s junior world player of the year award.
“It’s a great honour,” said Pollard. “But you come to the World Cup to get success.
“Getting this nomination means a lot to me, but at the end of the day, we want to win.”
Indeed, this line of thinking may have been what convinced Pollard to spurn a contract offer from Western Province in 2012 in favour of a move to the Blue Bulls, where winning titles - rather than chasing style points - is a non-negotiable priority.
Pollard’s knack for controlling the game with his boot, manning up on defence and taking the ball lying flat on attack are invaluable.
But it is his temperament, the ability to produce something special in clutch situations, that look set to make him a standout senior Springbok for years to come and, more pressingly, for the Baby Boks in Friday’s final.