Heinz Schenk
1 minute read
26 Jun 2014
6:00 am

Pollard takes the big step up

Heinz Schenk

Handre Pollard's meteoric rise reached a new peak yesterday after Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer picked him as the starting flyhalf for Saturday's Test against Scotland.

FILE PICTURE: Handre Pollard. Picture: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images.

Ironically, it’s the second instance during Meyer’s tenure where he’s handed a debut to a 20-year-old No 10 – injured first-choice candidate Johan Goosen receiving that honour in 2012.

As the coach noted, two of the game’s greatest flyhalves – Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter – were both distinctly wet behind the ears when they were pulled into the England and All Black teams respectively.

At 18 years and 314 days, Wilkinson was the second youngest debutant in England’s history.

“If you look at all the great flyhalves, you’ll realise they made their international debuts at very young ages – 19, 20, 21,” said Meyer.

“The thing that strikes me the most about Handre is that he’s very mature for his age. It’s a big ask of him, but we sat down and discussed his selection at length. He’s adapted well to training and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

The Baby Bok skipper’s boot doesn’t necessarily differentiate him, but he nudges ahead of local rivals because he’s willing to take more contact – and he’s already pretty good at it.

“Handre brings a different dynamic. He’s a great defender and a very attacking No 10,” said Meyer.

“I’ve always believed my No 10s should show character and take the lead. Great flyhalves always get better with bigger pressure. I believe he has that trait. He’s got brilliant touches on the ball and is a strong kicker.”

Pollard is one of five uncapped players in the match-22 and part of a staggering 13 changes, which doesn’t come naturally to the Bok coach.

“It’s not ideal as I like continuity, but we always would have given chances in this fixture,” he said.