Pat replaces Kirchner

2013-11-07 00:00

THE waiting is over for Pat Lambie and the 23-year-old has finally replaced fullback Zane Kirchner in the Springbok team to face Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday evening.

Coach Heyneke Meyer yesterday made five changes to the team beaten by the All Blacks at Ellis Park a month ago with the selection of Lambie not only the most surprising but also the most deserved.

The only change forced on Meyer was at tighthead prop where the 22-year-old Frans Malherbe replaces the injured Jannie du Plessis.

Flip van der Merwe takes over from Juandré Kruger in the second row while young Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit is named among the replacements and he should make his Test debut off the bench.

Experienced outside backs, the Japan-based pair of wing JP Pietersen and outside centre Jaque Fourie, are back in the mix, replacing Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht.

Lambie has been Meyer’s understudy to flyhalf Morné Steyn this year, spending the international season on the bench. His excellent form at flyhalf for the Sharks in the Currie Cup play-offs has been rewarded, but with a move back in his old position of fullback where he played for South Africa at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Meyer had been expected to retain the solid Kirchner for this Test but the skilful Lambie adds playmaking ability to the backline, particularly as the creative but defensively fragile Willie le Roux has made way for Pietersen.

“I wanted to use this tour to get Pat going,” said Meyer yesterday. “He has been playing good rugby and he is used to playing with this Springbok backline. He is very good under the high ball and he adds something different on attack.”

Meyer said that Lambie was happy to shift to fullback but could also play at flyhalf during the three-Test tour.

“We have chatted and he knows exactly where he stands. It’s great to have a guy who can slot in at fullback or flyhalf but his selection was right for the conditions.”

The Springbok coach said that he was fortunate to have two world-class players available for selection in Pietersen and Fourie. “I wanted to get them into the action as soon as possible. They bring a vast amount of experience to the team and it was clear from our training sessions this week that they are in great form and ready for Test rugby.”

The highly regarded Malherbe has battled injury this season, but he played off the bench for Province against the Sharks in the Currie Cup final and made an immediate impact in a lost cause.

“Frans has big boots to fill, but he’s a specialist tighthead and he’s been with us since 2012. He has shown good form since recovering from injury recently and we don’t have any doubts that he has what it takes to make the step up.

“He’ll have two players [Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis] with more than 50 Test caps each next to him in the scrum, and his general work-rate across the field and on defence is very good. I’m very happy for Frans.”

Meyer said he was also excited to have the 21-year-old Du Toit in the match squad of 23. “Pieter-Steph has always impressed me,” he said. “He probably would’ve played for South Africa earlier this season had he not been injured.

“To see Frans [Malherbe] and Pieter-Steph make the step up to Test match rugby is wonderful.”

Springbok team

15 Patrick Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 JJ Engelbrecht, 23 Willie le Roux.

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