Handre Pollard ‘lucky’ to be at the Rugby World Cup as he battles Manie Libbok for fly-half jersey

Colin Newboult

Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard kicking for goal.

Fly-half Handre Pollard is looking to grab his unexpected opportunity in a Springboks jersey when he faces Tonga on Sunday.

The playmaker was absent from the initial 33-man selection due to injury but was called into the squad when Malcolm Marx was ruled out.

Pollard has only just returned from a calf issue but proved his fitness for club side Leicester Tigers by playing 40 minutes in a Premiership Rugby Cup match.

Challenging Manie Libbok for 10 role

He now starts for South Africa against ‘Ikale Tahi and is looking to press his claim for a place in the starting XV ahead of the knockout stages.

A bonus-point victory over the Pacific Islanders should be enough to secure the Boks a place in the quarter-finals, although they will be waiting on the outcome of the Ireland v Scotland encounter next weekend.

“It’s unbelievable to be back in the team and in this environment, and I’m trying to enjoy every day,” Pollard told reporters.

“The calf injury I suffered was supposed to keep me out for four weeks and it ended up being three months.

“Not being selected for the World Cup squad was tough, but such is life. The coaches told us to remain positive and I was lucky to get the call.”

Pollard will no doubt have ambitions to take that fly-half jersey from Libbok but the 29-year-old is not expecting to be at his best immediately.

“I’m realistic about this weekend,” he said. “Playing 30 minutes of club rugby is very different to playing in a World Cup. I just want to express myself, although I know it won’t be perfect.”

Siya’s thoughts

Pollard will add another powerful voice to the team as they seek to get through to the next stage of the competition.

The fly-half was key to their title-winning triumph in 2019 and Siya Kolisi is delighted that the 29-year-old is back in the squad.

“I’m looking forward to working with Handre again. He’s experienced, he has a strong personality and he’s a general at No 10,” captain Kolisi said.

“We all want him to enjoy himself and not have to play under too much pressure, and we’ll try to put him in a position to do so.”

READ MORE: Jacques Nienaber expecting Handre Pollard to ‘struggle’ on Springboks return