This is the man Handre Pollard is relieved not to face directly

Handre Pollard (captain) of the Bulls during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airline Park on March 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Handre Pollard (captain) of the Bulls during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Vodacom Bulls at Emirates Airline Park on March 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Given the Bulls captain and Bok pivot’s red-hot form to date this season, that’s a weird thought.

When Handre Pollard has come up against his best local counterparts at flyhalf in this Super Rugby campaign, he’s come out on top.

The Bulls captain taught Damian Willemse a lesson in game-management against the Stormers; outplayed his biggest (friendly) foe, Elton Jantjies, at Ellis Park; and overshadowed Sharks pivot Robert du Preez before last week’s bye.

To state the 25-year-old is arguably in the form of his life isn’t a case of over-exaggeration.

But even he admits that he’s breathed a sigh of relief that he won’t be Damian McKenzie’s direct opponent when the Chiefs visit Loftus on Saturday.

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs makes a break during the round three Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Sunwolves at FMG Stadium Waikato on March 02, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

 

“He’s a world-class player,” Pollard said on Wednesday with a chuckle.

“I’m glad to see him back at No 15.”

However, that’s not quite the full story.

The 23-year-old All Blacks playmaker, who’s considered a so-called pocket rocket at only 1.77m and 78 kg, hasn’t had it all his way to date this season, particularly in No 10 jersey.

Since he’s moved back to the last line of defence, things have improved markedly.

“I believe fullback is the position where he’s at his best. He’s brilliant at exploiting space and has time on the ball there.

“It’s good to see him playing well again … unfortunately. It’s lovely to play against a guy like that. He’s one of the best in the world and you want to measure yourself against those guys.”

Not that the Bulls should reserve watertight defence just for McKenzie.

As ever, effective marking overall will be crucial, especially against a team like the Chiefs, who thrive on loose ball.

“Defence will probably be the most important thing to get right this weekend,” said Pollard.

“The Chiefs have some unbelievable athletes. There is some X-factor at the back and it’s going to be vital to stop them. It also comes down to one-on-one. You’ve got to sort your own opponent out. Defence is going to win or lose you the game.”

Bulls: Divan Rossouw, Cornal Hendricks, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Rosko Specman, Handre Pollard (c), Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen, Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Jason Jenkins, Hanro Liebenberg, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzima, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Eli Snyman, TIm Agaba, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Dylan Sage.

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