Should Pollard be with seniors?

2014-06-02 11:48
Handre Pollard (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – He’ll have enough on his plate with such minimal build-up time to the first Springbok match of the season here at the weekend, but perhaps coach Heyneke Meyer gave himself an early breakfast on Monday to watch the Baby Boks in action.

If so, he could hardly have failed to be impressed by the authority and flair shown by flyhalf and captain Handre Pollard as South Africa kicked off their IRB Junior World Championship quest at Albany, New Zealand, with a thumping 61-5 dismantling of Scotland.

The 20-year-old Pollard is in no less than his third presence at the tournament, and particularly considering that he is a prior winner with the 2012 squad on home soil, there was keen debate a few weeks ago about whether he should rather be considered for the senior national party, about to undertake four matches in the June window.

Instead he was allowed to make it a hat-trick of selections for the Baby Boks, this time with the constructive extra responsibility of exhibiting his skills as leader.

Still, after the personal stamp he placed on the game against the Scots, those who felt he warranted more immediate senior national squad status would have been vindicated on the day.

It is known, after all, that Meyer rates the former Paarl Gym favourite highly: had he not gone to New Zealand, there is every chance he would have been in the enlarged Bok mix instead.

The Bok coach was at pains to reiterate at Sunday’s first Bok press briefing ahead of the World XV clash at Newlands on Saturday that he is “yet to settle on my ten” with the longer-term goal of World Cup 2015 in mind, so it is difficult to image there are not some regrets he has not yet managed to get his hands on Pollard for integration as quickly as possible into the overall Bok environment.

Clearly Pollard still has certain some rough edges in first-class terms, but even at Super Rugby level for the Bulls this year, there have also been times when he has just looked among the most natural and multi-skilled of flyhalves in the country already.

A veteran – if that is the right word – of the Baby Bok cause, Pollard ought to only build further on his outstanding start to the 2014 event, when his team collectively built a pleasing, gradual head of steam after going 0-5 down pretty early on before they had settled against the tenacious but eventually greatly out-muscled Scotland.

Pollard was at the fulcrum of many SA plays, mostly on the attack but also as a fearless example of defensive commitment and zeal – his troops as a whole were always commendably quick off the blocks to aggressively smother Scottish ball-carriers whenever the underdogs believed they might get some traction.

Given his 97kg frame (it should not be too long before he touches the three-figure mark on the scales) he possesses a Henry Honiball-like confidence to operate way beyond the proverbial pocket, an automatic ticket to good momentum and space opportunities for his outside backs.

The Baby Boks did not disappoint in the try-scoring column, either, getting nine touch-downs and seven of them after the break when Scottish defenders lost a bit of their lustre for stopping an array of big, purposeful Bok ball-carriers -- forwards and backs alike.

Pollard converted seven times, before being called off a few minutes short of the finish to preserve his freshness for the key clash with the host nation on Friday.

He was responsible for this writer’s clear-cut individual moment of the match when, about halfway out, he dinked a cheeky ball over the top, collected it himself on his fingertips, allowed himself a split second to assess the situation and then pushed through another grubber.

By then the Scottish defence had already been cut to shreds and outside centre Jesse Kriel, among a trio of Baby Bok backs in a row who could have collected for the ridiculously simple dot-down, did the necessary.

Pollard’s artistry on that occasion – and it wasn’t his only decisive match moment as a creator -- was the sort of stuff we’ve seen too little of from South Africans on our rugby television screens this season.

It’s gratifying to know that even though thousands of kilometres away at present, Pollard shapes more and more as a likely asset to the senior Springboks, and is on their radar ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    handre pollard  |  rugby

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