Paarl Gym 1st XV flyhalf Handre Pollard has received a call-up to the Baby Boks training camp this week.
With Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen ruled out with a shoulder injury, Bulls Vodacom Cup and U21 pivot Tony Jantjies will be the front runner to spearhead the Baby Boks at the upcoming Junior World Championship from 4-22 June. However, who will provide backup?
SA U20 head coach Dawie Theron has handed Pollard a national call-up this week. The 18-year-old has been a star feature for Paarl Gym, who are currently ranked as the No 1 rugby school in the country, and is set to play his second year of Craven Week for WP in July.
Theron plans on fielding the schoolboy in the Baby Boks’ trial match against Hamiltons U20s in Cape Town on Wednesday night.
‘He’s been very good this year. I’ve been very impressed with the way he has played for Paarl Gym and the WP Craven Week trial squad,’ Theron told Schoolboy Derby. ‘It’s not impossible for an 18-year-old to excel in an international U20 tournament. [Leicester Tigers pivot] Graham Ford made his debut for the England U20s at the age of 17 and Derrick Hougaard starred in a Currie Cup final nine months after finishing school. I believe Handre has the size and talent to do the same.
‘I have also called up Sharks XV flyhalf Fred Zeilinga as a possible option. Lions fullback Marais Schmidt is also a capable flyhalf, but he’s struggling with an ankle injury.’
Pollard admitted that he was surprised by Theron’s call last weekend, but plans on making the most of the opportunity.
‘Coach Dawie spoke to me over the weekend and told me about his plans. He wants to see how I fit into the squad and if I can make the step up,’ Pollard also told this site. ‘It’s a huge honour for me and will be a big challenge. I expect this level will be quicker and more physical compared to the kind of standards that I’m used to, but I’m positive I will be able to handle it.’
Pollard is also highly rated by Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer. In the June issue of SA Rugby magazine, Meyer said: ‘He has a good rugby brain and has the physical attributes too [Pollard stands at 1.89m and weighs 95kg]. If he continues doing well, he’ll play for the Springboks one day.’
By Gareth Duncan