Handre Pollard should probably make peace with the fact that local rugby fans will consider him one of the Springboks’ messiahs in 2017.
But Andre Pretorius, a former Springbok flyhalf, isn’t too worried about overblown expectations placing unnecessary pressure on the Bulls playmaker.
The 22-year-old flyhalf only returned to competitive action last week for the first time since 2015’s World Cup campaign following knee and shoulder injuries.
He was sorely missed in the Green-and-Gold last year.
“You can bet on the rugby fraternity expecting a lot from Handre,” Pretorius, who played 31 Tests, said on Tuesday.
“I don’t think there’s any point trying to shield him from that. South African rugby is what it is. In fact, I’m convinced Handre actually enjoys being put under the microscope. Despite his age, he’s looked very mature and handled all his challenges to date quite well.”
Pollard’s presence gives embattled national coach Allister Coetzee a much-needed extra option in the No 10 jersey after he jumped between Elton Jantjies, Pat Lambie and Morne Steyn in 2016.
Yet Pretorius is wary of considering Pollard the favourite for the position when the Boks host France for a three-Test series in June.
“All his return does is adds to the Springboks’ depth,” he said.
“Elton and Pat are excellent players in their own right. If they play out of their skins in this Super Rugby campaign, they can also easily be in the inside lane for a Bok spot again. We should hope for competition instead of just hoping Pollard performs.”
There’s no doubt though the former Baby Bok skipper can develop into a legend if he continues to build on his strengths.
“Handre is a wonderful player. He’s blessed with a strong build and his willingness to attack the advantage line is a huge bonus,” said Pretorius, who nowadays fronts up as NWU-Pukke’s defence guru as well as a successful business man.
“He’s very decisive. If he wants to take on defenders, he does. And if he decides to kick, he does so. If Handre can improve his judgement on when to vary those options, he’ll be unstoppable.”
It’s also a safe bet Pollard won’t merely count on his talent to carry him through the season.
“I also suffered numerous long-term injuries in my career,” said Pretorius.
“Time on the sidelines is good for a player. I helped me think more about my game. I think Handre’s absence has also helped him think about the ways he can improve.”