Rugby

Pollard loss could spark Bulls

2016-02-23 10:02
Handre Pollard (Gallo)

Cape Town - Handre Pollard was always going to be key to any success the Bulls had in Super Rugby this season. 

That sentiment was widely accepted throughout pre-season as the Pretoria lads, under new coach Nollis Marais, look to play a more enterprising brand of rugby in 2016. 

Pollard ticked all the boxes as the pivot capable of sparking the Bulls into life by facilitating a fast-moving, attacking game - his tactical awareness, decision making and skill all the product of experience at the highest level at a young age. 

Still just 21-years-old, Pollard has already played in 20 Test matches and a Rugby World Cup. 

At a time of uncertainty at Loftus, Pollard was the shining light of optimism. 

And then, calamity struck. 

Pollard, without taking any contact, suffered a sickening knee injury at training that has ruled him out for the entire season. 

As much of a blow as it is to the Bulls chances in Super Rugby, it also affects whoever the new Springbok coach will be as well as the development of Pollard himself. 

Tian Schoeman and Francois Brummer are next in line for the Bulls No 10 jersey, and one of them is likely to start Saturday's tournament opener against the Stormers at Newlands. 

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck acknowledged this week that losing Pollard would have been a massive blow to the Bulls, but he warned that there could be a backlash. 

"Generally when a side loses a player of that stature and quality it galvanises the team, so I think they will be dangerous," Fleck said.

"I wouldn’t say (the Bulls are) poorer."

Fleck suggested that he was a huge admirer of the Bok playmaker.

"The way that Pollard ended the season playing for the Springboks and the way he played in the World Cup … he was a really strong contender in terms of being one of the better players in the competition," said Fleck.

"He certainly suits their style and the way they want to play … he’s a big loss for them.

"I feel that the way the Bulls are trying to change things ... it makes them an all-round dangerous side. You can’t just point out one player.

"They’re a young group as well, like us, with lots of talent."

The Stormers will also field a new No 10 after the departure of last season's first-choice flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis. 

Robert du Preez looks to be the favourite to crack the nod, and Stormers scrumhalf Jano Vermaak backed the 22-year-old to come good if called upon.

"I’ve got a lot of confidence in Rob if he’s going to start this weekend that he’ll stand up to the challenge."

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