Cape Town – There should be no going back
... let Handre Pollard run out at No 10 for the Springboks when they
open their Castle Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina on
As it happened: South Africa v Scotland
match is scheduled for Loftus, home ground of his Super Rugby franchise
the Bulls, which only makes it more fitting and comfortable that he get
the nod then.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer is a cautious planner,
always with an eye on bigger pictures, so when Pollard took to the field
for his sparkling debut against Scotland in Port Elizabeth on Saturday –
South Africa romped to a 55-6 victory – he may not necessarily have had
in mind the 20-year-old also being entrusted with flyhalf duty straight
away in the more demanding southern hemisphere competition.
on evidence from a vibrant, near-capacity Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
against the Scots, the 20-year-old clearly has both the confidence and
abundant ability to do the job.
It helps, of course, that the Boks
begin home and then away against the Pumas, usually the weakest by some
distance of the quartet of teams involved, and they would be
well-advised to try to win with the four-try bonus point each time to
get a really good head of steam for the tougher business.
perhaps easier said than done in Argentina itself, but the Boks
certainly continued their mounting zeal for crossing the whitewash
during their three Tests in the June window, registering a praiseworthy
17 in total against Wales and Scotland – an average of just under six
Significantly, perhaps, their best haul was eight in
Port Elizabeth, with novice Pollard pulling the strings at pivot in a
seriously illuminating 71-minute maiden appearance before he made way
for another first-timer in Marnitz Boshoff.
If Pollard could play
with such authority and panache when so hurriedly introduced to the Bok
mix, and presumably more than a little weary after his hasty travel back
from New Zealand and the final of the IRB Junior World Championship,
just imagine how a suitably refreshed customer could trouble the
unsuspecting Pumas in a few weeks’ time?
My own take is that the
Boks, although decently served on various occasions by the likes of
Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie (very soon fit again), have desperately
seldom in recent years fielded a No 10 who genuinely took ownership of a
game in the way Pollard did the latest one.
Of course he still
has some rough edges – a little like Frans Steyn, he occasionally lands
awkward-angled or long place-kicks and fluffs the odd simpler one – but
the quicker these can be ironed out on the highest stage via a mounting
tally of caps, the faster he will be a well-rounded candidate for
flyhalf at the 2015 World Cup.
That’s not to say that in certain
conditions – for instance, a miserable NZ or UK quagmire and howling
gale – the metronomic Morne Steyn doesn’t still offer horses-for-courses
possibilities to the cause, not to mention abundant experience.
may even still feel this most seasoned of Springbok No 10s, with his 56
appearances, is his intended banker for the English-staged World Cup,
even if that would raise the eyebrows of many observers.
But it is
immensely difficult not to suspect that Pollard is in Test rugby for
the long haul ... so let’s not interrupt for one minute his education at
the premier tier.
He had it pretty easy against the battered,
largely impotent Scots, there’s no denying it: now let him negotiate
some presumably tougher times against the Wallabies and All Blacks to
stretch him and suitably steel him for hurdles further up the road.
by some of his sound-bites immediately after the PE Test, Meyer will be
open to selecting various young guns in the Championship: “Handre is
already a mature player and he combined well with Jan Serfontein today.
(the Boks’ more raw players) are pressuring the first-choice players
and a lot of the new guys will be contenders for the Rugby
Pollard just seems the entirely natural “Full
Monty” for both foot and hand skills, but his defensive stoutness – it
is surely only a matter of time before he is a particularly powerful
100kg specimen – and willingness to receive the ball way clear of the
proverbial pocket are key strings to his bow that give him an edge
already over several other contenders for the Bok job.
been one area often still shrouded in a fog of uncertainty during
Meyer’s two-year tenure as Bok coach -- evidenced thus far by use, to
varying degrees, of around half a dozen players in the spot.
A guiding light, I strongly sense, has arrived to steer the country toward a more visible horizon.
That light is Handre Pollard.
Shouldn’t we grab it very firmly and decisively?
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing