— Cape Town Recently, Jacques Nienaber stated that he was “80%” convinced that Handre Pollard would miss the end-of-year tour to Europe, but the Springbok flyhalf now believes he will be able to participate.
In the Rugby Championship loss to the Wallabies in Adelaide, Pollard sustained a knee injury, as did centre Lukhanyo Am, who has also been sidelined since.
After joining his new English side Leicester Tigers, the prognosis for the pivot, who is 28 years old, has significantly improved after a second opinion in the UK.
In an interview with the Leicester Mercury newspaper this week, Pollard expressed confidence that he will soon return to the field after serving as a traveling reserve in the weekend victory against Northampton Saints.
“The structure is sound,” Pollard stated. “I am actually progressing well. Just trying to accomplish as much as possible. From the initial diagnosis we received in Australia, I have a few more tasks to complete. I’ve returned to London and received a significantly more positive one.
“I’m working hard, and it feels great, so we’ll see where we go from here.
“This is really different” (to the ACL tear he sustained while at Montpellier). There is a small tear in the meniscus. It’s significantly better than we initially believed, and it’s doing quite well.
“We are still taking it one day at a time, but I am really optimistic and excited.
I should be ready for the last series of the year.
The next two matches for Leicester are away to Saracens on Saturday, followed by Sale Sharks the following weekend.
A healthy Pollard, who has 65 Test caps, would end the Boks’ flyhalf dilemma, which saw veteran utility back Frans Steyn start at No. 10 in last week’s 38-21 win over Argentina in Durban.
Pollard, Damian Willemse, and Elton Jantjies were all unavailable for the Kings Park match due to injury or personal reasons, and Nienaber was hesitant to call up an uncapped player for a single game.
The Bok coach is also waiting to see if Bulls pivot Johan Goosen receives enough game-time in the United Rugby Championship following an 11-month lay-off with a knee injury to be ready for the November tour, where the world champions will face Ireland, France, Italy, and England – with midweek games against Munster and Bristol.
Having Aled Walters, the former head of athletic performance for the South African national team and a member of the World Cup-winning management team, working with Pollard at Leicester has also aided his transition to his new club.
“He is outstanding, world-class, and a major factor in my decision to come here.” There is no way to avoid it. What he accomplished for us over those two years with the Springboks put us in the best condition of our lives,” the former No. 10 for the Bulls stated of the Welshman.
“With them and me personally, the way he does things is something to which my body and I react quite favorably.
“In addition to being a superb coach, he is an incredible person and a great addition to any team. The singing is not particularly good, but it’s fantastic to have a person like him in the group.”
His wife Marise has also made Pollard’s life simpler in his new environment.
“I did not anticipate being here so soon. I got to settle down under calmer circumstances. Since my wife has been here for a few months, she has organized the house. I longed for all the heavy lifting and cabinet assembly. That has been fantastic. I am staying in Market Harborough,” he said, adding that he had been “crushing the curries” in the area.
“Moving to France a few years ago was a humbling experience. We arranged the home before our arrival, which made the transfer much simpler.
“I had always desired to visit England. Prior to three years ago, I desired to come here, but there was no real opportunity, so I had to go elsewhere. When the chance to work with Fordy (George Ford) presented itself, it was a no-brainer for me.
“My wife and I had long desired to visit England. We never had had the chance. A chance to join a club like this is one you cannot pass up.
“I knew exactly what Steve (Borthwick, Leicester’s head coach) and the boys were doing, and it’s evident that they’re headed in the correct path. Speaking with Aled, who has been with them throughout the entire process and whom I really regard and admire, it was clear that they were on track to accomplish something extraordinary.
“I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly like last season, but it’s fantastic. Being at a club like this, I still have a great deal of aspirations to win trophies and progress as a player.”