Pollard - young pretender to RWC contender
Given the meteoric rise he has enjoyed in the past 12 months it would come as no surprise to see Handre Pollard playing a leading role for South Africa at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
If successful, only Jean-Marc Doussain of France – who made his Test debut as a replacement in the RWC 2011 final just months after captaining France's Under 20s – will have made the transition from IRB Junior World Championship to the Rugby World Cup quicker.
Pollard, who was named IRB Junior Player of the Year 2014 in June after guiding South Africa to the Junior World Championship final in New Zealand, has gone from schoolboy rugby to playing for the Bulls in Super Rugby and the Springboks in less than two years.
And having put in an accomplished performance on debut in the 55-6 rout of Scotland a mere eight days after that JWC 2014 final, the 20-year-old has been entrusted with the number 10 shirt for the Springboks’ opening match of the Rugby Championship against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday.
Looking ahead to the start of The Rugby Championship, the Bulls playmaker told Total Rugby he was excited at the prospect of playing against the best teams in the world.
“It (The Rugby Championship) is a great competition, you probably have the top three countries in the world at the moment in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, while Argentina coming in has brought another flavour to the competition.
“I think it is one of the greatest challenges to go and face the senior All Black side in New Zealand so hopefully I can be a part of that and hopefully we can get the win.”
Wallabies eye second
New Zealand head into The Rugby Championship ranked number one in the world and will set a new record for consecutive Test victories involving the major nations if they beat Australia in Sydney on Saturday and make it 18 wins in a row.
A fourth straight win over their cross-Tasman rivals – by a margin of 15 points or more - would increase the All Blacks' cushions at the top of the IRB World Rankings, a position they have held since November 2009. If Australia win and South Africa suffer a shock loss at the hands of Argentina the Wallabies will swap places with the Springboks and move into second. The Pumas, meanwhile, will climb two or three places depending on the margin of victory.
No doubt Pollard would settle for a repeat of the scoreline the last time he faced an Argentine side at national team level – a 35-3 win for the Junior Springboks at JWC 2012 - when he crosses swords with the Pumas again.
Back then he kicked 12 points as an 18-year-old playing in the first of three Junior World Championships. “Playing in the Junior World Cup for three years meant a lot to me, I really developed as a player,” he said. “It’s such a great breeding ground for young talent and young guys coming through. If you look at the list of guys who have played there and then gone on to play senior rugby for their countries it’s just such an amazing list of players and it’s just such a great honour to be part of it.”
Also on Total Rugby this week, we feature the ‘Wonder Women’ of WRWC 2014, our Rugby World Cup ‘Golden Moment’ takes us all the way back to the start – New Zealand in 1987, plus we get an insight into the work of the Bhubesi Pride who are helping to develop Rugby throughout Africa. All available to watch HERE>>
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