Pretoria - Saturday is a big day for Handre Pollard.
Not only will it be his first Super Rugby match in over a year, but Pollard will also take over the Bulls captaincy against the Stormers at Newlands at a time in which South African rugby is crying out for leadership.
There has still been no finality on who the Bok coach will be in 2017 - it looks increasingly likely that Allister Coetzee will stay on - and there is also no captain following the retirement of Adriaan Strauss towards the end of last year.
It has led to an increasingly vocal group of critics calling for the 22-year-old Pollard to be given the Bok captaincy this year.
While that is surely an option for Coetzee, or whoever the Bok coach is, Pollard is not getting too carried away.
"Every player has his own personal goals for the season. I just want to get back on the field and play my best rugby that I can possibly play for the Bulls and get back to where I was a year ago," he said in Pretoria on Thursday.
"Small steps … one at a time for me, not thinking too far into the future. The only focus for me is Saturday."
Pollard has captaincy experience under the belt already after he led the Junior Springboks at the 2014 IRB Junior World Championships, but he acknowledges that leading a team in Super Rugby is a different challenge entirely.
"It’s a bit of a step up and it’s a bit harder captaining a
side that’s older than you, but we’ve got a great vibe," he said.
"Nothing big changes, it’s
just about keeping the guys up for it and leading by example.
"I've had the privilege of playing with some unbelievable captains in my career ... Victor Matfield, Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger, Adriaan Strauss, Fourie du Preez. I've learnt something from each of them, but at the end of the day it is my journey."
The Bulls have not beaten the Stormers at Newlands since 2011, and Pollard says that will be in the back of the visitors' minds on Saturday.
"It’s been a few years since we’ve beaten the Stormers in Cape Town and it’s a box that we all want to tick," he said.
"It’s motivation for us … to go down to Cape Town and get a win is never easy."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 19:30.
15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Robert du Preez
15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Nick de Jager, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Warrick Gelant