Handre Pollard: 'Don't see him as a decent fit for Leicester'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Scotland international Jim Hamilton has questioned the wisdom of Leicester Tigers shelling out a massive amount of money to sign Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard.
The South African No.10 lasted just 27 minutes on his Premiership debut last Saturday, limping off in the 67th minute at Saracens after being introduced as a half-time replacement.
The debut came just five weeks after Pollard had limped out of The Rugby Championship for his country in Adelaide, an injury that Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber reckoned was 80 percent likely to rule the player out up the upcoming European tour in November.
Pollard defied that prognosis by skipping off the bench in London to make his Leicester debut but it was soon cut short and the Tigers reported on Monday that the injury is similar to what he sustained in Australia in August.
“Handre is an incredibly positive character and he took a little bang and that is being assessed at the moment,” reported Leicester boss Steve Borthwick.
“We are getting it investigated now and it is a similar area.”
This lack of Leicester bang for buck on Pollard’s Premiership debut became a hot topic on this week’s episode of The Rugby Pod, the show co-hosted by ex-Tigers duo Hamilton and Andy Goode. Whereas the latter was keen to play up the attributes of the South African, Hamilton sounded gravely worried that the 2021/22 English champions had jumped the gun in recruiting their replacement for England out-half George Ford.
It was last November when Ford announced he would be joining Sale for the 2022/23 season, a revelation that resulted in Leicester announcing the following month that they had captured the signature of Pollard from Montpellier.
However, with his debut on the artificial surface at the StoneX in London not going to plan, Pollard is now facing a layoff just 27 minutes into his Leicester career, a situation that left Hamilton suggesting that Borthwick was rash with his recruitment.
Here is how the intriguing conversation between Hamilton and Goode unfolded on The Rugby Pod:
Jim Hamilton: “You wonder how fit he was? Rumours and what you were hearing was he was a long way away from being fit and the next thing he is playing.”
Andy Goode: “You say that Jim but I spoke to him a few weeks back at Leicester, interviewed him in the Andy Goode suite pre-match and he was like, ‘Mate, I will be fit in a couple of weeks.”
JH: “Well, maybe there were 750 000 reasons why he wanted to be fit. I am not being horrible but you saw the injury, he came off, I heard slightly different rumours. He knows better than anyone how far away he is or was and he clearly felt he was right to go (and play). I heard he wasn’t going to be fit until January, I heard he was going to miss the autumn Tests and stuff like that.
“I just don’t see him as a decent fit for Leicester in a like for like losing George Ford. We have always spoken highly of George Ford. The back-end of the season looked brilliant, in attack he looked brilliant. The way Leicester want to play you could say and argue the fact that Handre Pollard fits that but I just don’t know why they have gone out and signed a South African 10 at the back end of his career when there are other players that you could potentially look at.
“I am happy to be proven wrong and I hope he is okay and I hope he does get a bit of time in the jersey, but I just wonder whether he is the right player to take Leicester forward, to win the Prem again and to win Europe and to be consistent. They had George Ford and we all know what our mate Freddie [Burns] did at the end of the season.”
AG: “Jim, I am just going to call you out on something there because you are trying to write a guy’s career off. He is 28.”
JH: “Is he 28?”
AG: “He is 28.”
JH: “He’s in his prime.”
AG: “The back end of his career? You’re horrible.”
JH. “I know but I feel like he is older.”
AG: “It’s because he has been playing for South Africa for a long time and has had huge impacts on that team. I met him at Leicester and honestly I was a bit nervous about it. All banter aside, he is a World Cup-winning flyhalf and I am sat there a bit nervy. I want to see how much banter I can give him on stage and try and get a few laughs out of him.
“The first thing he does when he sees me is he walks over and goes, ‘Hi Andy, how are you doing?’ Shakes my hand. I’m like, ‘F***, he knows who I am’. It took me back a bit and then you speak to him, he is the nicest guy. The South Africans are humble guys, they want to work hard for their club and there are no airs and graces around them.
“I did a bit of investigation around how he is fitting in and all this stuff and everyone you speak to at Leicester said that he is the most professional guy possible. He has come in with all these medals, a World Cup winners medal, beat the Lions, he is a phenomenal player in terms of his career behind him. He has come in humbly and just wants to help Leicester do as well as they can and he has put himself in the shop window. He could quite easily have come to Leicester and said, ‘Nah, boys, I ain’t fit til Jan’.”
JH: “It’s great to have different opinions and you are better placed than me but he didn’t play loads at Montpellier, he didn’t set the world alight in the Top 14 and I say this with all due respect, he is effectively a marquee player. He is Leicester’s marquee player and that is the level we are talking about. I’m not talking about a £200,000 player coming in and not setting the world alight.
“I am talking about what a Dan Biggar has done for Northampton, for example. What a Semi Radradra has done at Bristol. There is no disrespect to Handre Pollard. I love the bloke. He is a ten out of ten looking bloke and I’m sure he is a lovely guy but I just feel like Leicester rushed the gun a little bit in trying to sign a top-class ten who I don’t necessarily think fits.”