While Handre Pollard is currently one of the highest-paid players in the world and has been linked with a move to Leicester, his long injury history makes it questionable whether the English Premiership club are making a wise investment.
The Springbok flyhalf has reportedly rejected a big-money offer from a Japanese club in favour of English Premiership club Leicester Tigers.
Pollard’s current contract with Montpellier will expire at the end of the current Top 14 season and the French giants will not offer him an extension, frustrated by his lack of playing time due to injuries and Test commitments.
The 2019 World Cup winner has subsequently been linked with moves to the Sharks, a club in Japan, and Bath and Leicester in the English Premiership.
However, reports in England suggest that the Tigers have won the race for his signature and could unveil him as a new signing this week, on a reported salary of £600,000.
Since making his senior debut for the Vodacom Bulls in the 2013 Currie Cup, Pollard has played just 94 first-class club matches, owing to a number of long-term injuries during his time at the Bulls and then Montpellier, including knee-ligament tears in 2016 and 2020.
As a result, Pollard has played an average of 10.5 club matches per year since his professional debut. At Montpellier, where he was widely acknowledged to be one of the game’s highest-paid players, earning £1m per year, Pollard played only 16 matches.
The French giants effectively paid the 27-year-old around £62,500 per game (R1.3m).
England’s Owen Farrell, who made his club debut in 2010, has played a total of 203 club matches, at an average of 17 per year for his club. Another world-class flyhalf who made his debut in 2010, Beauden Barrett has played 170 club matches, averaging 14 per year. And this is despite both these players exceeding Pollard’s annual average of 7.5 Test matches, with Barrett averaging 10 and Farrell 9.4 Tests per year.
Rugby greats Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson both also managed more club matches per year than Pollard. Carter, who had his own injury troubles in his career, averaged 12.1 club matches since making his first-class debut in 2002, and 8.6 Tests per year, while Wilkinson played an average of 18 club games and seven Tests with a total 323 club matches and 97 Tests.
It remains to be seen whether Leicester have made the right decision in investing in Pollard as a replacement for George Ford, who is off to Sale Sharks in 2022.
Ford made his first-class debut for Leicester in 2009 and has since played a total of 205 club matches at an annual average of almost 18.