Planet Rugby's scouts headed down to the IRB Junior World Championship to see South Africa's young fly-half in action.
With the IRB Junior World Championship taking place, Planet Rugby's scouts headed down to Cape Town Stadium to see South Africa's young fly-half in action.
Who is he?
When South Africa's U20 coach Dawie Theron was asked to name a few players in his squad who would be worth keeping an eye on, it was Pollard who he spoke most animatedly about.
A large part of that was down to the fly-half's age – Pollard only recently turned 18 and is the only member of the Baby Boks squad who is still at school.
He attends the well-known Paarl Gym, which has produced Springboks such as Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, and will captain Western Province at the 2012 Craven Week in July.
According to his SARU player profile, he likes steak and Afrikaans music.
One of Theron's big points about Pollard was his size, and he's certainly tall for an 18 year old. At 6ft 2in he doesn't look out of place among players two years older than him, although he's not the beefiest guy in the backline.
Well-built and athletic, tall and upright, there's more pedigree than mongrel about him. He's not about to drive an opposing player back in the tackle, but he won't grant him any ground either.
South Africa's game against England was a good one to judge Pollard's passing, because the hosts needed four tries to make the semi-finals and were going to play running rugby.
As a result Pollard passed three times more than he kicked or ran, and the good snappy ball that he gave in the second half helped those outside him work their magic. It was more functional than spectacular though; fluid but not that inventive.
On Tuesday night his goal-kicking was flawless, although three of his four conversions were straightforward affairs and his distance was never tested because South Africa were not interested in notching up penalties from range.
His kicking out of hand was mixed – while he made some serious yardage with a couple of booming clearances, he failed to find touch on a couple of occasions, and criminally one of those was with a penalty.
England were well organised when it came to covering the long kicks, and so twice Pollard kicked aimlessly down someone's throat.
But his up and unders were excellent, allowing his wings plenty of time to get underneath them and trouble the English defence.
Such was Pollard's solidity that it was a surprise when he committed his only defensive error of the evening. England had a scrum ten yards from their own line and ran what was meant to be a crash ball to set up the clearance kick. Instead the English runner found himself sliding unchallenged through Pollard's channel – seemingly because the fly-half thought one of his back-rowers was covering – and running 40 yards upfield.
Pollard did his best to atone for the error though, throwing himself onto England's huge number 14 to prevent any further damage. Six other tackles on the night showed he's not one to shirk a challenge, and that such blemishes are rare.
“We're waiting in excitement to see this guy at this level because we believe that he's got what it takes. He's definitely the guy that in three or four years' time from now, I believe he could be on everyone's lips,” said Baby Boks coach Dawie Theron.
“If we look at him, at the moment he's 97kg and 190m tall, so that is serious size. There are some Super Rugby fly-halves who don't get close to that. He can kick the ball, he has a good feeling for the game and his distribution is very good, but then another one of his strong points is his defence.”
It was a serious vote of confidence when Theron turned to Pollard for South Africa's clash with Italy. The hosts had suffered a surprise defeat to Ireland, and although the coach had always planned to give the youngest member of his squad some game time, Pollard showed enough to earn two starts ahead of Tony Jantjies, who is expected to match or better the abilities of his older brother Elton.
Pollard looked calm and composed on Tuesday night in front of a crowd that grew to around 12,000 at Cape Town Stadium. He wasn't the star of the show (if anyone, that was outside centre William Small-Smith, who has a great step and tremendous pace), but he looked far from overawed about making such a big step up.
In the first half South Africa were often on the back foot as they fluffed their line-outs, got turned over and struggled to match England at the scrum. It was difficult to judge any fly-half behind that sort of problem in the forwards, but there was no evidence of panic in Pollard's play.
Some of South Africa's more respected columnists have lamented a reliance on route one rugby. One of them cited Theron's gushing description of Pollard's size as evidence that this trend shows no sign of abating.
Having watched the 18-year-old in action there is some merit to these concerns, because if we were to compare him to a current fly-half it would probably be Morne Steyn. Pollard seems to have been set in the South African mould – he looks solid but lacking in flair.
Temperament is often the most important part of a player's make-up though, and so it would be no surprise to see Pollard develop into a first-choice Springbok fly-half in years to come. South Africans might just hope that he can add a few more strings to his bow.
By Tristan Holme