Lambie’s more than a passive pivot

2012-11-09 00:00

PAT Lambie believes he is ready to face the tactical challenges of playing at flyhalf for the Springboks.

Coach Heyneke Meyer says the focus will be on Lambie’s tactical nous when he makes his first start at flyhalf for the Springboks against Ireland in Dublin tomorrow.

Meyer described his controversial selection of placing flyhalf Morné Steyn, his Bulls favourite, on the bench, in place of Elton Jantjies, as back-up for Lambie and as “an insurance policy”.

“I didn’t want to be in a position like we were in Soweto [against the All Blacks early in October], when Johan Goosen went off injured in the first 10 minutes and then have to replace him with a youngster [Jantjies] who is inexperienced.”

“Morné [Steyn] is getting back to his best and kicking brilliantly at practice. So we will have experienced back-up.”

Quite why Meyer is so concerned is uncertain. Jantjies has shown he has big match temperament, while Meyer also has Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar partnering Lambie at halfback, which will help to take pressure off his flyhalf — both tactically and in kicking goals.

Indeed, the local Irish cannot believe that Pienaar, who has been in prolific form for Ulster, is not the Springboks’ first-choice goal-kicker.

Ireland kicking coach Mike Tainton this week described Pienaar “as one of the best in the world”.

Lambie, in turn, told rugby writers that he was more than a running, passing flyhalf and his tactical awareness had improved this year.

Indeed, it was his ability to probe with the boot, while playing for the Sharks in the final rounds of the Currie Cup, which finally gained him a place in the Bok starting line-up.

The normally reticent Lambie, who turned 22 last month, said there was an impression that he wanted to run everything.

But he said this was not true and he was willing and able to kick into space behind the defensive line when the opportunities arose.

“The coach has spoken to me and made it clear what he expects from me tactically, and I hope I can meet those expectations.”

He said the Springboks laid heavy emphasis on tactical kicking, and he believed that this year he had become more aware of when to run and when to kick.

“I definitely feel like I’ve grown as a player,” he said.

Lambie will also play at flyhalf for the Sharks in next year’s Super Rugby competition, but he has not closed the door on a possible move back to fullback in the seasons ahead.

“At the moment I don’t want to throw all my eggs in one basket,” he said, and added that he would happily play wherever he was selected.

Meyer defended the conservative selections he had made for tomorrow’s Test.

“I wanted to keep the same combinations as much as possible, because we have had so little time to prepare.

“We lost almost our whole pack after the World Cup. But the selection of the forwards was easy, because we have quickly established a pack that is going well.

“The difficult choices were at flyhalf and centre, but, again, I didn’t want to change too much.”

He said there was no pecking order at flyhalf.

“I believe in horses for courses and that’s why I have Steyn [rather than Jantjies] on the bench against Ireland.

“Both Elton Jantjies and [centre] Juan de Jongh are talented young players and they will get their chance on tour.

“I wanted to two big centres [Jean de Villiers and Jaco Taute] against Ireland, particularly as it could be wet.”

He said that hooker Schalk Brits had shown excellent form for the Saracens and he had been selected ahead of Chiliboy Ralepelle on the bench because he was a better impact player.

“Chili will never let you down. But you want an impact from the bench, and with most of the games being won in the last 10 minutes, we’ve really lacked someone who can come on and make the difference.

“I think we now have players who can do that,” Meyer said.

Tomorrow’s Test kicks off at 7.30 pm.

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