Born in Somerset West in 1994, 20-year-old flyhalf Handré Pollard had his first taste of provincial rugby while still in primary school. Selected for the Western Province squad for the Under-13 Craven Week competition in 2007 he has been a player earmarked for greatness ever since. The seeds for this were planted by his father, now a retired school principal, who passed him the oval ball when he started walking.
Considering that the Junior Bok captain, now plying his trade with the Bulls in Pretoria, made his test debut in Port Elizabeth just a few days after playing in the final of the Junior World Championship against New Zealand, one would be forgiven to think that he has been rushed into the side too quickly. Yet despite having to overcome losing a close game against the hosts, he showed just what he could add to the senior side in a demolition of Scotland many did not expect.
The rise to prominence is remarkable when one takes into account that he only made his debut for the Bulls in Super Rugby a few months earlier. Despite the pressure on him and the weight of expectations from an impatient rugby public, Pollard is taking everything in his stride.
He readily admits that he has a lot to learn, but has a passion and commitment for the game that is stands him in good stead for the rigours of being a professional rugby player. He was named the 2014 IRB Junior Rugby Player of the Year following the final loss and many respected rugby writers have described his tactical kicking and leadership abilities as mature beyond his years.
For now, Pollard is preparing for an intense Currie Cup season with the promise of more tests to come against the likes of New Zealand, Australia and Argentina in the upcoming Rugby Championship. Maybe next year Pollard can avenge the Junior Bok defeat next year in the World Cup in New Zealand. — Iwan Pienaar