I don't think Western Province could have done anything more to try and keep the player
Western Province did everything within their power to retain teenage flyhalf Handre Pollard, but still lost the tug-o'-war with the Bulls.
The Paarl Gimnasium scholar, who impressed for the Baby Boks as they clinched the Junior World Championships for the first time last month, caused a stir with the announcement this week that he would depart for Pretoria at the end of the year.
Western Province Rugby CEO Rob Wagner addressed a media conference on Wednesday and explained that the union had done everything they could to keep hold of Pollard, but unfortunately that was not good enough for the 18-year-old who will captain the Western Province Craven Week team next week.
He said: "Western Province rugby identified, nurtured and invested in Handre Pollard from the age of 12. He went into the elite groups and played for the Under-13 side, the U16 side and as you know he is now captaining the U18 team.
"On the 10th of August 2010 Hennie Bekker, who runs that department, met with Pollard senior, Handre Pollard and the CEO of the union and officially handed him a contract," added the Western Province boss.
Wagner explained that in September 2010 the agreeement had still not yet been signed as Pollard and his father claimed that he was still to decide whether he would play rugby or study after school.
Wagner went through the communications between Pollard's father and the union in detail, making it clear that they had attempted to finalise a contract with the young player numerous times.
He quoted correspondence between Bekker and Pollard senior in August 2011 in order to back up his claim that the union had done everything they could to hold on to him.
Bekker wrote: "I have heard that Handre has already decided to sign with the Bulls. I would appreciate if you would inform me of the facts."
Pollard senior responded: "Thanks for the interest but as I mentioned in my letter last year Handre will only decide next year (2012) about his rugby future. Numerous agents and unions contact us regularly and everyone is speculating but he will make a final call next year after we have decided what he will study."
Pollard was invited to train with the senior Stormers squad at the end of 2011, but rumours that he had signed with the Bulls surfaced once again at the start of the year, so Bekker wrote to Pollard senior again at the end of March 2012.
Bekker wrote: "To my great surprise and disappointment I heard that Handre has already signed with the Bulls. As we discussed he would also have to speak to us before making such a decision."
Pollard senior replied: "As far as I am aware I, as the parent, must also sign a contract and at this stage I have not signed. Rest assured that Handre and myself have the greatest appreciation for what you have done for him."
Wagner said that SARU regulations prohibit any union from offering a schoolboy player a contract without informing his home union, unless an agreement had been reached the year before.
He said: "If Handre signed a contract in 2012, then it would have to be in keeping with the SARU regulations which say that we would have to have been notified that they had approached our player.
"The Bulls do follow the regulations and they do follow the contracting procedures, therefore I must assume that he has not been contracted in 2012 and would have been contracted earlier than that."
Wagner concluded that although he did not want to point any fingers at anyone else he remained confident that Western Province could not have done any more than they did.
"I don't think Western Province could have done anything more to try and keep the player. We invested a significant amount of development into the player and despite rumours that he was possibly moving we took Mr Pollard's word and continued to provide opportunities for the player," he said.
By Michael de Vries