Handré Pollard has announced himself as a Test player of immense potential, writes RYAN VREDE.
I wrote in June, just before Pollard's debut, that we would only be able to make a more accurate assessment of his Test aptitude after seeing him against the world's best. I didn't think he was ready to start ahead of Morné Steyn just yet, but accepted that if Heyneke Meyer felt he was the man to lead them at the World Cup, it would make sense to invest in him in the Rugby Championships. Meyer has got an excellent return on his investment.
That Pollard's strongest Tests came against the world champion All Blacks speaks to the depth of his gifting. He remains raw, but he has learned quickly and seems certain to develop into a truly world-class player for the Springboks. Lest we forget, he is only 20 years old.
The Springboks abandoned their kick-chase approach in favour of a multi-phase, ball-in-hand method halfway through the tournament. This suited Pollard's style better, although he has, for the Bulls, shown himself to be highly competent when given a more pragmatic directive. His size and speed combine to make him a formidable runner and his spacial awareness and decision-making (he saw he was up against forwards) were a feature of both his tries.
It would benefit the Boks having Pollard playing in one of the elite Super Rugby franchises, one that has the prospect of contesting for a play-off place regularly. Becoming accustomed to the pressure of knockout matches will advance his technical and mental growth and expedite his evolution into a match-winner. Still, he seems destined to rise despite this.
His next important examination will come on the end-of-year tour, where his management of wet conditions will reveal more about his range of skills. I look forward expectantly to seeing him work under those conditions and against the backdrop of greater expectations.
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