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The impact the 2009 Lions had on a 15-year-old Handre Pollard

By Liam Heagney

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Springboks out-half Handre Pollard has explained the impact which the 2009 Lions tour to South Africa had on him as a 15-year-old, claiming it was vital in inspiring him to go on and become a professional rugby player. Now aged 27, he is set to play for his country on Friday in their first match since the World Cup. 

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When Pollard was injured after joining Montpellier in 2020, he feared he would miss out on a large chunk of Springboks caps but the pandemic has meant it has been 20 months since the 2019 World Cup winners last took the field. 

Friday’s series opener versus Georgia in Pretoria is the first of two warm-up matches the Springboks will play before tackling Warren Gatland’s Lions on July 24 in the opener of a three-game series and Pollard, the out-half who is expected to ask plenty of questions of the tourists when they first clash in Cape Town, is pinching himself that he has the opportunity to feature twelve years after a lasting first impression was made.  

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Pollard wasn’t present at the Test series in person which the Springboks won 2-1 against Ian McGeechan’s Lions, but he followed every second on television after he had seen the tourists live in an earlier match versus Western Province.   

“I didn’t go to the Tests. I watch the Lions against Western Province in Newlands when they tackled Duane (Vermeulen) out of his boots. I will never forget that,” he quipped. 

“There are no words to describe the excitement to play the Lions. I am just happy that it could happen and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Most of us in the squad now are of a similar age and we grew up watching 2009 and got a lot of inspiration out of that and wanted to become professional rugby players because of that. 

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“Now we are sitting here with the possibility of facing the Lions and the huge team they are. Very excited. There are no words for it. The excitement is on another level.”

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The impact the 2009 Lions had on a 15-year-old Handre Pollard

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