In the first of a series looking back at the big names to play in the Varsity Cup, DYLAN JACK looks at how Handre Pollard helped UP-Tuks retain the title in 2013.
Fresh from helping the Junior Springboks win the 2012 World Rugby U20 Championship, Pollard linked up with the UP-Tuks team as part of his deal with the Vodacom Bulls, who he joined after finishing his schooling at Paarl Gimnasium.
Then 19 years old, Pollard was initially used off the bench as Tian Schoeman was the first-choice flyhalf for UP. His first start for the team would come in the round-five clash with Wits, during which UP cruised to a 52-0 victory.
He would continue to retain a place in the starting lineup, but at inside centre, where he shone as both secondary creative outlet and secondary kicker, alongside either Schoeman or Willie du Plessis.
Pollard produced a shining performance in the semi-final against the University of Johannesburg, where he gave another indication of his big-match temperament and immense potential by slotting seven out of eight conversion attempts and scoring one of UP’s eight tries as they claimed a comfortable 61-24 win.
With this performance, Pollard retained his place at inside centre for the final against UP’s rivals, Maties. Another future Springbok and 2019 World Cup winner, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, also started for UP.
With tries from scrumhalf Danie Faasen, Du Plessis and captain Jono Ross, UP raced to a 21-0 lead at half time. Pollard had a perfect game with the boot, slotting all five conversions and kicking a penalty as UP eventually won 44-5.
This would be Pollard’s only Varsity Cup season as he was promoted to the Bulls’ senior team for the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup after the tournament and sealed a place as their starting flyhalf. However, it was nevertheless memorable and yet another indication of his talent that would help the Springboks win the World Cup in Japan.
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