Lambie could be the long-term solution to Sharks’ flyhalf problem

2010-04-01 00:00

PAT Lambie, the talented Sharks fullback, will not be rushed into the flyhalf role during the Super 14, but head coach John Plumtree is keen to use him in that position during the Currie Cup.

The Sharks, who lost Juan Hernandez and then Steve Meyer on the eve of the Super 14, have been desperately looking for a long-term answer to their flyhalf problem. Former England Test flyhalf Andy Goode was rushed into the squad as a temporary measure and the Sharks are also hoping that, with the help of SA Rugby, they can afford to bring Butch James home from Bath.

But many believe that the solution is much closer to home and that the 19-year-old Lambie, who has played most of his rugby at fullback, is tailor-made for the job. Lambie has had two outings at fullback for the Sharks and showed composure, courage and excellent ball skills in coping with the pressures placed on him by the Highlanders and the Hurricanes.

Plumtree said that the Sharks had “considered playing him at 10 quite a while ago”.

“But at this stage we just want to get him used to playing at fullback at this level. It is really important to give him time to settle.”

Plumtree added that Lambie could be given the opportunity to play at flyhalf in the Currie Cup.

“We know he’s capable and putting him in at flyhalf will bring him much closer to the action. He could surprise us, but we won’t be doing that yet.”

The Sharks coach said that Goode will be available to play at flyhalf against the Reds, though he has a slight hamstring strain.

Plumtree said that one of the disappointing features of the current Super 14 competition is the standard of the refereeing. The Sharks had four referees from the reserve (rather than merit) panel on their tour of the Antipodes.

“There have been some poor displays in this tournament and the sides on the bottom of the ladder are suffering by having to put up with those referees. The top five sides have the leading referees on a weekly basis.”

Plumtree said the Australian referees are “the biggest concern and everyone is talking about the same thing”.

He said the Sharks have suffered from some harsh calls, but praised the response of Sanzar’s referee manager, New Zealander Lyndon Bray.

“He has stood up to his responsibility in terms of appointments and has been pretty ruthless and transparent in dealing with poor displays.

“That is great for us [coaches] and at least the referees know that if they have poor games they will be demoted. Only the best referees will get the jobs at the end and that is exactly what we want.”

Plumtree is expected to keep changes to his team to a minimum with Waylon Murray likely to replace the injured Adi Jacobs at centre. There will again be interest in his selection in the front-row where the Sharks have stood up solidly since John Smit moved to loosehead for the last two games.

The Reds, in contrast, are considering a couple of changes to the team which beat the Cheetahs. Coach Ewen McKenzie says six players aged between 19 to 21 played in Bloemfontein and he is wary of pushing them too hard too quickly.

“Playing in four, five or six games in a row is physically and mentally taxing for young guys when they are unaccustomed to it,” he said.

“It’s a juggling act, but we may rotate some players. The Sharks won two games in New Zealand, which shows the test in front of us,” he added.

The Reds, enjoying their most successful start to a season in over a decade, last won four of their opening six games in 1999, and the win over the Cheetahs ended a seven-game losing streak in South Africa.

A win over the Sharks would give them consecutive victories in South Africa for the first time since 2004 — the last year the Reds beat the Sharks in Durban — and leave them well placed for a semi-final spot heading into the second stage of the competition.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 5.05 pm and New Zealander Chris Pollock will handle the game.

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