Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard says he is excited to return to Test rugby against Georgia after spending most of the past season out with a knee injury, writes DYLAN JACK.
Pollard will earn his 49th Test cap when the world champion Springboks take on Georgia at Loftus Versfeld on Friday in the home side’s first match since the 2019 World Cup.
Since helping guide the team to the Webb Ellis Cup, Pollard joined French giants Montpellier but saw his time on the field cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic and a long-term knee injury.
While there were doubts over whether he would recover in time for the Lions series, Pollard made a successful comeback and managed a couple of starts towards the back end of Montpellier’s Top 14 campaign.
Now back with the Springboks, Pollard will be expected to hit the ground running and pull the strings in a backline that features a couple of debutants in wings Aphelele Fassi and Rosko Specman.
“It’s massively special,” Pollard said on his return to the Springbok camp. “Just being back in the environment with your mates and the coaches. It’s a special group we have got here and a special environment. Just to be back here is very exciting. From a personal note, to tear my ACL and not miss a Test match is a pretty good bargain, so I am very happy to be here.
“I have been working really hard on getting back from the injury. I got some game time for Montpellier and I have been working really hard at training with the Springboks. So, physically and mentally, I am feeling ready. I am very excited and will just try and influence the game positively where I can and try to lead the boys in the right direction. Give the new guys some guidance and keep them calm and just make sure that we put out the best performance.”
Pollard will play alongside different combinations as when he last started a Test match, as Montpellier teammate Cobus Reinach will be on his inside at scrumhalf, while he will have veteran centre Frans Steyn on his outside.
“It’s of course great to have Cobus with me,” Pollard said. “We have become great mates over the last year and a half. We have spent a lot of time together, but unfortunately haven’t played too much together for Montpellier because of Covid and my injury. But, of course, we have trained together a lot and have a very good understanding, so it’s going to be great to have him on my inside.
“I have also got the old dog in Frans Steyn outside me, with all the experience in the world. I will try and get him as angry as possible before Friday night so he can do some damage.”
Pollard added that while the Springboks are putting their full focus on the two Tests against Georgia, they are wary of the looming series against the British & Irish Lions, who arrived in the country on Monday.
“It’s a hard one. We have to be 100% focused on Friday at 7pm to face a very physical side in Georgia. We are putting all our energy into that this week. But there is always a part of you that’s focusing on what’s to come with the Lions. Everything we do is in preparation for that.
“There are no words to describe the excitement to play the Lions. I am just happy that it can happen. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Most of us in this squad now are a similar age and we grew up watching in 2009. We got a lot of insipration from that. Now we are sitting here with the possibility of facing the Lions and the huge team that they are.
“Personally, I didn’t watch any of the Tests in 2009, but I watched them face Western Province at Newlands, when they tackled Duane Vermeulen out of his boots.”
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