Paarl Gym flyhalf Handre Pollard featured as SA Rugby magazine’s Schoolboy Derby Future Star in June.
Pollard was the outstanding performer in a strong Paarl Gym 1st XV that picked up two big wins over Grey College (45-29) and Selborne (57-16) and narrowly lost to Affies (27-20). He says the triumph over Grey College was the special result, as it was the Bloemfontein school’s first defeat in three years.
‘It was also Paarl Gym’s first win over Grey at 1st XV level,’ says Pollard. ‘They didn’t beat us by much last year [Grey College edged Paarl Gym 14-10 at the 2011 Wildeklawer Super Schools], so the victory showed that we have progressed as a team.
‘The defeat to Affies was disappointing, but we had to rest some of our first-choice players after the tiring match against Grey. We returned to full strength against Selborne and were back to our best.’
The 18-year-old was born in Somerset West, where he attended Somerset West Primary School. In Grade 7, he switched to Paarl Gym Primary School before enrolling at the high school. Provincially, he has represented WP at U13 (2007), U16 (2010) and U18 (2011) levels. Pollard believes this experience has been pivotal in his development.
‘I’ve played flyhalf my whole life, so I was able to settle in one position at school. I’ve also had the privilege of playing provincial age-group rugby, which is a step up from your average school game. This has allowed me to build on my strengths and work on my weaknesses, and I’ve got to test myself against the best opposition in the country.’
Pollard has caught the eye of many keen schoolboy rugby followers, including Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who first saw the player at the U16 Grant Khomo Week.
‘This year we will see many top schoolboy flyhalves emerge. Handré is one of them,’ says Meyer. ‘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.’
Paarl Gym 1st XV coach Christoff Lötter echoes Meyer’s sentiments.
‘Handré has it all – the boot, the size, the good decision-making and a strong work ethic. There are hardly any weaknesses in his game. He must just continue sharpening his talents as he develops.’
Pollard wants to play professional rugby after school, but is still undecided on where he’ll be based next year.
‘As a youngster from the Western Cape, I have a soft spot for WP. But I have a few options lined up for 2013, and will choose the one that will benefit my career and development the most. I’ll make a final decision at a later stage,’ he explains. ‘Right now, I just want to focus on my matric studies and do well for Paarl Gym. We have a devastating backline this season, so I have a big responsibility as the flyhalf. I also hope to play my second year of Craven Week for WP.’
By Gareth Duncan