He is physical enough and big enough
South African Under-20 captain Handré Pollard, who was named International Rugby Board Junior Player of the Year at he weekend, has what it takes to make the step up to senior Test-match level.
Baby Bok coach Dawie Theron waxed lyrical about the man that took his team to within a single point of winning the IRB Junior World Championship.
The Junior Springboks returned to South Africa on Sunday, from Auckland, where they were just edged by defending champions England (21-20) in a thrilling Final at Eden Park last Friday.
However, Pollard, instead of heading home to family and friends, joined the senior Springbok team in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
He is one of two players called up to the squad that will face Scotland in a one-off Test at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this coming Saturday. The other is veteran Bok hooker Adriaan Strauss, who completed his ban for foul play in Super Rugby.
Theron has no doubt that the 20-year-old flyhalf, Pollard, has what it takes to make the step up from the age-group game to the senior international stage.
"The entire [SA U20] team is extremely proud of him," Theron said.
"If you look back to three years ago, how we had to negotiate to get him [to play for SA U20] out of the matric class.
"I went to go 'spy' on him when he played Craven Week [provincial schools] trials," the coach said of a time when the talented youngster was first earmarked for greatness.
He spoke of the immense pride the SA U20 management, the junior fraternity and his teammates have in the achievement of a Bok call-up.
"He was a wonderful captain, with outstanding leadership skills," Theron said, adding: "It was a wonderful experience to have him there and his teammates."
Asked about Pollard's ability to make the step up, the Junior Bok coach said: "[Senior Bok coach] Heyneke [Meyer] has already showed faith in him and I believe without doubt he will make the step up.
"He is physical enough and big enough - he has all the attributes to become a great player."
Getting called up to the Boks and having the talent is one thing. Actually making the step up is a personal challenge.
"He still has to go out and do it," Theron said, adding: "The opportunity has been given to him and he must prove it, but I believe and the entire team has faith in his ability to do it [make the step up]."
By Jan de Koning
* Don't forget to return for the remainder of Jan de Koning's chat with SA U20 coach Dawie Theron, when he speaks of the clash of titans (South Africa versus New Zealand), the Baby Boks that will be back next year, the prospects of a four-nations Rugby Championship style tournament for juniors and his chat with the new lock prospect JD Schickerling.