How tearing his ACL worked out as a good bargain for Bok Pollard

Liam Del Carme Sports reporter
Handre Pollard is relishing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions.
Handre Pollard is relishing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions.
Image: GettyImages

As you’d expect from a man who drives a hard bargain on the field‚ Handre Pollard has no problem spotting a transaction weighted in his favour off it.

To tear an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and not miss a Test is a bargain‚ Pollard cheerily declared after he was named in the Springbok starting team for Friday’s Test against Georgia at Loftus.

It is that kind of matter-of-fact‚ ice-in-the-vein assessment on which the Springboks have come to rely and which helped propel them to the Rugby World Cup title in Japan in 2019.

After suffering some kicking blues early in the campaign Pollard became the chief orchestrator and driving force of the team in the knockout stages.

He suffered the serious injury while on duty for Montpellier but the Springboks’ almost 20-month hiatus from the international arena because of the pandemic gave him enough time to recover.

He called reuniting with his teammates “massively special”.

“Just being back in the environment with your mates and the coaches. It’s a special group we have got here and a special environment.

“Just to be back here is very exciting. From a personal note‚ to tear my ACL and not miss a Test match is a pretty good bargain‚ so I am very happy to be here.”

Pollard completed his rehabilitation in time to help oversee Montpellier's surge to the European Challenge Cup title but now the stakes get higher.

For the Springboks to return to the elevated playing plain they occupied in the knockout stages of the World Cup they need Pollard restored to fine fettle physically and bulletproof levels of confidence mentally.

While the Bok forwards relentlessly rumbled under their cohesive blanket‚ Pollard was the bonding agent that made the gains stick.

“I have been working really hard on getting back from the injury.

"I got some game time for Montpellier and I have been working really hard at training with the Springboks. So‚ physically and mentally‚ I am feeling ready.

“I am very excited and will just try and influence the game positively where I can and try to lead the boys in the right direction.

"Give the new guys some guidance and keep them calm and just make sure that we put out the best performance.”

Although he will on Friday have different faces to the ones he operated next to the last time he played for the Boks‚ Pollard needs no introduction to Cobus Reinach and Frans Steyn.

Fellow halfback partner Reinach is also with Montpellier‚ while Steyn … well he’s played next to almost everyone.

“It’s of course great to have Cobus with me‚” Pollard said.

“We have become great mates over the last year-and-a-half.

“We have spent a lot of time together‚ but unfortunately haven’t played too much together for Montpellier because of Covid-19 and my injury.

"But‚ of course‚ we have trained together a lot and have a very good understanding‚ so it’s going to be great to have him on my inside.

“I have also got the old dog in Frans Steyn outside me‚ with all the experience in the world.

"I will try and get him as angry as possible before Friday night so he can do some damage.”

Pollard admits as much as the Boks need to keep their eye on the ball in the form of Georgia in the two-Test series‚ while the bigger prize is never far from sight.

“There are no words to describe the excitement to play the British & Irish Lions. I am just happy that it can happen. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Most of us in this squad now are a similar age and we grew up watching in 2009.

"We got a lot of inspiration from that. Now we are sitting here with the possibility of facing the Lions and the huge team that they are.

“Personally‚ I didn’t watch any of the Tests in 2009‚ but I watched them face Western Province at Newlands‚ when they tackled Duane Vermeulen out of his boots.”

Pollard will be desperate to avoid a role reversal in the series against the Lions.