Handre Pollard was confirmed as the hottest young thing in South African rugby on Sunday night, but the winner of both the Young Player and U20 Player of the Year awards is not yet a definite starter in the number 10 jersey for the Springboks at the World Cup later this year.
Pollard himself accepts this and the most famous of all Springbok flyhalves, Naas Botha, believes the tactical demands of each individual match will decide whether the Bulls star or Pat Lambie start in the pivot position during the World Cup.
“Both Handre and Pat are absolutely fantastic flyhalves but I think it depends on what the Springboks want to achieve tactically when it comes to choosing between them,” Botha told The Citizen.
“Handre is different to most flyhalves because he’s more of a strike runner, when he’s under pressure he backs his physicality. I just think he’s a different attacker than your normal, smaller number 10s, he’s a lot more direct with ball in hand.
“Pat has quicker hands than Handre and can make something out of nothing outside him. Sometimes Handre will just decide to run into the defence, whereas Pat can create space out wide in those situations.
“But they’re both exceptional kickers and fantastic defenders, so I think it depends on where the Springboks want to attack the opposition: more directly or out wide,” Botha explained.
The 20-year-old Pollard says the most important thing for him in the forthcoming SuperRugby season is to develop the consistency that marks out first-choice Springboks.
“It’s a World Cup year so it’s massive for me and the team as well, but my first focus is on SuperRugby, because nobody has been selected for the World Cup yet. It’s a big year especially for the Bulls because we really need to step up this year.
“SuperRugby is going to be the biggest challenge yet for me and what I’ll be focusing on is consistency. Players like Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers play well week in and week out,” Pollard said.
The suggestion that Lambie (1.78m, 87kg) and Pollard (1.88m, 97kg) could play alongside each other in the Springbok team, especially with inside centre De Villiers’ participation in doubt due to a serious knee injury, does not seem likely to happen given that the World Rugby Junior Player of the Year said that the Bulls will only use him in the number 12 jersey “if push comes to shove”.
*Naas Botha has criticised World Cup organisers for putting the Springboks and defending champion All Blacks in the same side of the draw for the knockout stages of the World Cup.
South Africa are in Pool B and New Zealand in Pool C and, if they both win their pools and their probable quarterfinals against England/Australia and France/Ireland respectively, then they will meet in the semi-finals, despite currently being the two best sides in the world.
“I don’t understand how New Zealand, who are ranked first, and us, who are second, can meet in the semi-finals. It is absolutely wrong. One versus two, if both teams do their job, should be the final.
“We know why it’s happening, but is it right? Nobody wants to see the two best teams playing each other in the semi-final!” Botha said.
The draw for the pools was done a year after the previous World Cup, but the All Blacks and Springboks were also the top two teams in the world at the end of 2012.