VIDEO: Realistic Pollard not expecting a 10 out of 10
Handre Pollard, at 29 and with 65 Test caps, knows what to expect in any match.
However, after 13 months away from the international stage and just 30 minutes of a Premiership Cup (English tier two) match behind him, he knows that he is likely to be a bit ‘ring rusty’ when he plays at flyhalf for the Springboks against Tonga in a World Cup Round Four outing in Marseille on Sunday.
He missed the initial World Cup selection, after suffering a calf injury while on duty with Leicester Tigers back in May.
A number of setbacks during his rehabilitation meant he was not ‘fully fit’ when coach Jacques Nienaber named the 33-man squad last month.
He was then called up as a replacement for injured hooker Malcolm Marx a fortnight ago.
Now he wants to make the most of his ‘second chance’.
“It is unbelievable to be back in this environment,” Pollard told @rugby365com on Friday, ahead of Sunday’s #MustWin encounter with the Pacific Islanders.
“It’s a special environment to be a part of.
“Getting a second chance is really nice, something that I’m going to try and enjoy every single day.”
He described the rehabilitation as “tough and frustrating”.
(WATCH as Handre Pollard and Andre Esterhuizen chat to @king365ed about their expectations for the World Cup face-off with Tonga on Sunday…)
“It was a calf injury that should have only been about four weeks [on the sidelines], but ended up being almost three months,” he said at the team’s base in the seaside hamlet of Les Sablettes in the Toulon region
“It was a very frustrating time, but that’s the body, that’s how it works.
“We tried our best to be fit as soon as possible, but it didn’t work out.”
He admitted missing out on being selected for the initial 33-man World Cup squad was tough.
“They [the coaches] always told us to stay positive and be ready, and that is exactly what I did.”
Pollard spoke about the need to be ‘realistic’ in terms of his performance against Tonga.
“Having played 30 minutes of Prem Cup [Premiership Cup] a few weeks ago to playing a Test match in a World Cup is quite a big jump,” he told @rugby365com.
“I’m confident in the way we prepare here.
“My expectations for myself are just going to be to express myself and enjoy it, knowing that it will not be perfect.
“I will just get myself into the next battle and the next battle and get excited about it.”
Pollard explained that back in May he ‘tweaked’ the calf muscle in training on the Tuesday before the Premiership semifinal between Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks.
“It didn’t feel too bad,” he said, adding: “We gave it all the time possible to recover.
“The Saturday morning [May 14] I tried to run, but it wasn’t great.”
He returned to South Africa, and did scans, with an initial prognosis of about a four-week lay-off.
“There were a couple of setbacks.
“With muscular injuries, especially in the calf, setbacks are very common.
“My body just didn’t react well at the time.
“Now all is good and I am ready to go.”
He will resume a partnership with inside centre Andre Esterhuizen, which started back in their Under-20 days – even though they have played only two Test matches together.
“Every player has a different skillset and mindset about a game,” Esterhuizen said about playing alongside Pollard.
“I haven’t played a lot with Polly [Pollard], but he is a world-class player and has been on this stage before, he’s won the World Cup and beaten the British and Irish Lions.
“We may not have played a lot together, but we have been training a lot for years now – going back to South Africa Under-20, we started playing there together for the whole tournament.
“We’ve known each other for quite a while now.”
Esterhuizen was philosophical about the limited game time he has had at the World Cup – having started only in the win over Romania.
“I just play when I am selected,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “We spoke about it quite a few times.
“We don’t see it as two different teams, an A and B side.
“You can see a good mixture between players every game.
“It is about game-time and game management for every single player to be ready.
“If you haven’t been selected for four weeks and you need to all of a sudden play in a quarterfinal, it’s probably not going to go well.
“Everyone needs to get match fit and get some rugby under their belt so you have 33 players to choose from.”