Rugby: Scoring ace anchors Junior Boks

By Campbell Burnes

Handre Pollard is a fan of Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson. Photo / Getty Images
Handre Pollard is a fan of Dan Carter and Jonny Wilkinson. Photo / Getty Images

No man has scored more Junior World Championship points in the history of the tournament than South Africa's Handre Pollard - and no man is more central to his side's fortunes.

The No 10 has played all but 10 minutes of the Junior Boks' four games and will again be heavily leaned on to help pilot them to a second Junior World Championship crown in this Friday's final against England at Eden Park.

The 20-year-old was in his last year at Paarl Gymnasium when coach Dawie Theron promoted him to the 2012 Junior Boks.

His kicking and ability to carry out the game plan were vital to the winning cause then and it will be no different on Friday.

Though he stands very deep to kick tactically, a la Morne Steyn, he can spark an attack, as he did superbly against Scotland with a chip and regather before putting in a left-footed grubber for Jesse Kriel to score. Pollard also showed his speed when he scored an intercept try in the semifinal against New Zealand. Those five points moved him ahead of England's Tom Homer on the JWC all-time scorers list.

Pollard seems a modest, reserved man off the field and is more content to let others talk him up: "It's good to have that (milestone) to my name, but it's not the major plan. We want to win the competition, which is a much greater thing to achieve."

A big admirer of the newly retired Jonny Wilkinson and also Dan Carter, Pollard would love to achieve even half of their honours.

"I think they are the two best flyhalves ever. They have been around and won everything."

New Zealand captain Anton Lienert-Brown paid tribute to Pollard's leadership and composure after the semifinal struggle, and Theron says the team is lucky to have him.

"He has made his mark this year in Super Rugby," the coach said.

"I picked him out of school which created a big stir, and we had to convince people he was good enough and physical enough to compete."

At over 1.8m and 96kg, Pollard is unafraid to mix it physically, though there was talk in South Africa last month of promoting him to the Boks. That may be premature.

He has been used sparingly by the Bulls this year in Super Rugby, but has benefited at times from having Francois Hougaard on his inside and 2012 JWC teammate Jan Serfontein on his outside. The Bulls are preferring Jacques-Louis Potgieter at pivot, but Pollard says some of Victor Matfield's vast experience has rubbed off on him - which can only be good for the Junior Boks.

Handre Pollard
Born: March 11, 1994
Position: First five
Super Rugby/Currie Cup: Bulls/Blue Bulls
2014 JWC points: 55 (2t, 15c, 5p) in four games

- NZ Herald

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