Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard may have no score to settle against the Stormers for having let him go as a youngster but his allegiance will certainly be to the Bulls when the two most fiercest rivals in South African rugby face off in their Super Rugby opener on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.
Pollard was poached from the palms of the Western Province Rugby Union by the Bulls, namely incumbent Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and manager Ian Schwartz while he was still at school, but the promising and hugely talented Springbok flyhalf harbours no grudges for his home franchise not securing his services.
But there will be no love lost come Saturday at Loftus and for Pollard, typical of a true professional and a man whose heart is etched in the Barbeton daisy, his goal will be to ensure that he dictates the Bulls’ play to ensure victory while also sub-consciously reminding the Stormers of what they let go.
More importantly though for the Bulls is that Pollard has made the transition from Cape Town to Pretoria in the past two years so easily that he considers himself a thoroughbred Bull and even speaks highly of how the team are eagerly anticipating the derby this weekend.
There is enough reason for Pollard to believe that his team will step on to the field with an advantage after they breezed to victory in their two warm-up matches against the Cheetahs, and English Premiership club Saracens.
The Bulls have shown good intent in the manner in which they have gone about their duties and this with Pollard not playing at pivot. But with plenty of pressure coming from his second in command Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Pollard will again feel the weight of Pretoria and the Bulls faithful on his young shoulders.
Unlike most 20-year-olds, Pollard is not running away from the pressure and together with his teammates feels that there is no better time than Saturday to make known to the entire rugby world that their mission is to win, not just against the Stormers, but the rest of the competition as well.
“The Bulls versus Stormers derby is what we live for and we are looking forward to that. The guys really worked hard in the off-season and they are looking forward to the game and we picked up some nice form in the warm-up games and are looking to continue on that,” Pollard said.
Pollard will most certainly start at flyhalf ahead of Potgieter and he will be in good company amongst the backs with scrumhalf Piet van Zyl servicing him while Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht will keep him company on the outside.
Bjorn Basson and Francois Hougaard will be the wings and Jurgen Visser the fullback but the might of the Bulls will undoubtedly lie in the engineroom where the likes of veterans Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane will need to set a marker against a Stormers team that will still be high on the hangover from winning last year’s Currie Cup. – The Star