Pat Lambie v Johan Goosen

2013-03-21 13:21
Patrick Lambie (Gallo Images)
The most coveted jersey in the entire Springbok team, or any Rugby team for that matter is the one with the Number 10 on the back of it. The position of Flyhalf can in international terms be likened to that of the American NFL quarterback, you know, the guy who gets all the girls. Locally it empowers the wearer to lead his team out to battle by being the General, it further empowers him to make all the decision’s which will either allow him to control and dictate play, or bear the brunt of blame whenever a team misfires. Such is the nature of this position, that much like the role of Springbok Coach, they both are like drinking from the poisoned chalice. When the team wins, it is the Coaches game-plan and the flyhalves execution of said game-plan. When things don’t pan out, it is entirely the opposite.

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The injury to Johan Goosen will no doubt have given Naka Drotske a sleepless night or two, as I am sure the news will also provide a proverbial spanner in the works for our National Coach, Heyneke Meyer. I can’t however really remember a time in recent history, where the discussion of who should be General has hogged the spotlight more, than what it currently does. In South Africa we are blessed with an abundance of players that can seamlessly wear this jersey and play as if they have worn it all their lives, which they probably have, but that is beside the point. The point is that the loss of Goosen is indeed massive, the infatuation with him and each and every one of his predecessors being exposed by how poisonous this chalice is indeed.

Barely 3 seasons ago, “the Prodigy” from KZN, was being touted as the next big thing, he will be the next Bok 10 many said. In what was his debut year, he led the Sharks in a one-sided Currie Cup final in which he scored 25 of the Sharks 30 points that day. Now Lambie appears to be #3 behind Steyn and Goosen and as if that isn’t complication enough, nipping hard at his heels is Elton Jantjies. All 3 of these young flyhalves can equally do the job well, each possesses a strength that the other does not. That being said, there is and always will be a pecking order. Each of these 3 are paying their dues and doing their bit to prove to the greater South African rugby community why they should be considered the all important #1 incumbent to the Springbok #10 jersey which will in all likelihood, be vacated by Morne’ Steyn when he leaves for Northern shores to play for Stade Francais in the French Top 14.

The infatuation with always looking for the BBD – Bigger Better Deal – when it comes to rugby players, means that those that currently are, never get more than a season or two to grow and should they not grow fast enough, well, then the axe awaits them. As far as I am concerned there really are only 2 serious contenders for the Springbok #10 jersey, Lambie and Goosen. Goosen’s injury means that Lambie will now automatically be the leading contender with Elton sure to follow him, PROVIDED he gets back to his pre-Stormers form. Even if Goosen hadn’t injured himself I would still say that Lambie should be the man to lead South Africa in the 2015 RWC, he should be given more time grow in his role, and being given that role for the whole of the SR season with the Sharks will enable him to hone his skills even more. Now “gut feelings” aren’t enough, certain stats must be allowed to speak for themselves. So let us compare the Prodigy and Das Wunderkind.

Only stats up to and including Round 5. are being considered:
                             Pat Lambie     Johan Goosen
Most Points             57                 43
Most Conversions     3                   8
Most Penalty Goals   16                 9
Most Kicks               40                 39
Most Kicking Metres 1183              1360
Most Missed Tackles  Unavailable     10
Go Forward             12                 6
Conceded Penalty     0                  3
Lost Possession         3                  6

The stats above are representative of only the Top 20 per category which is why missed tackle stats for Lambie don’t feature. Click here for the full list.

It would be a little unfair to compare these two players on the basis of only 5 matches. It is early in the season and much can change, however, historically the Sharks have always gotten better and better as the Tournament progresses, whereas the Cheetahs tend to fall away. What is worth comparing is shots at goal whether they have come via Penalty or Conversion, the stats here so far heavily favour Lambie who has a kicking percentage of 95% (19 kicks only 1 miss), Goosen on the other hand has a low percentage of 41% (17 kicks with 7 misses). Even with his hail Mary long-range efforts factored in, he still scores much lower than Lambie. Another statistic is the missed tackle count against Goosen. He ranks inside the Top 20 as per the list above, of most missed tackles. Lambie’s defense has always been a major hallmark of his play. It is not easy to simply target his channel as many that have tried, have failed.

Further stats that become absolutely pertinent at Test level are those of discipline, managing to keep possession and attacking intent. Once again, this is early but these are areas that Lambie has excelled at since making his mark. Lambie has gotten go forward 12 times vs. Goosen’s 6, then there is the important matter of discipline, Goosen has conceded 3 penalties vs. Lambie’s none. Possession stats show that Lambie is twice as effective at keeping the ball compared to Goosen, having lost the ball only 3 times vs. Goosens 6 times. Not all of Goosen’s gameplay is negative, where the Wunderkind outshines Lambie is in the kicking metres gained stats, but this we all know to be true because Goosen does have a massive Francois Steyn-esque boot which also explains his lower kicking percentage because of all the long-range shots he takes.

Sadly, having a big boot isn’t everything, tactical accuracy is what truly makes your mark. Being able to drive opponents back into their territory is the ultimate genius of the game. Forcing your opponents to play from their half, adds pressure and forces mistakes, and when you have an accurate kicker like Lambie, you can profit from those mistakes. Now before you lynch me, here is some food for thought, normally one would make a reference to Morne’ Steyn, in fact normally I would make a reference to Steyn, but when it comes to accuracy, Steyns stats so far also leave a bit to be desired. Morne’ currently has a kicking percentage of 69% (23 kicks with 7 misses). So it isn’t all as rosy as one would think. So based on stats alone, Lambie is the front-runner even ahead of Morne’ Steyn.

The final link in Lambie’s armour is what can not be taught, you can’t learn what he can do, no coach can teach it, it is either something that you are either born with or your are not, no young player, and for that matter most senior players, exude as much patience and composure under pressure like Lambie does. Lambie is the very definition of BMT and what is most astounding is that it is something he brought into the game with him, it wasn’t something that he learned along the way. Nothing seems to phase him, he always instinctively knows what to do next. He does not doubt his ability and Plumtree’s backing of him proves that. Now Meyer needs to pull finger, recognize and do the same. Lambie can easily go to another 2 World Cup’s, having already attended in 2011. It is amazing to watch how much he has grown and it is time for him to be afforded the opportunity to make the #10 jersey his own.

Goosen’s recent spate of injuries over the last 2 seasons will severely impact not only on his career, but any aspirations that he may have for making the Springbok jersey his own. Adding to this, when he returns back to action in 6 months time, how confident a player will he be? Part of the joy of being a young player, is playing like to you have nothing to lose, when injuries happen you heal quick and are back in the mix in no time, but back-to-back knee injuries as well as a severe shoulder injury is really asking questions of the body. Lambie has in this department been very fortunate, for whatever reason, but fortunate nonetheless. If he can remain injury free, he should be in the clear. Nobody wants to see Lambie simply being gifted his chance, we want to see him compete for it, competition is healthy and it forces you to up your game. Maybe that is what Goosen was doing in order to elevate his status, maybe he tried to hard, or maybe he was simply unlucky getting hurt doing what he loves.

Earlier I mentioned that Elton is in with a shout, but in order for him to be noticed, he has to turn things around. It is now going into Round 6, and by now the cobwebs should well and truly have been cleaned out. From here on end there can be no more excuses. Peter Grants sidelining will afford him the opportunity to have an extended run in the Stormers #10 jersey, and if he can turn things around then he can easily be the cat among the pigeons. It is all up to him to make or break. I believe he is a quality player, otherwise WPRFU wouldn’t have shelled out the kind of dosh on him that they did. Coetzee is a very astute Rugby coach and knows exactly what he was buying when he lured Elton to the Cape, but now it is up to Elton and Elton alone to repay that investment. He could dress in drag, he could help old ladies across the road or he could be a raging alcoholic, at the end of the day, all that matters to the Newlands faithful is his performance on the field. If he can get that going again, the battle should again be in full flight and for us at home, should make for some very entertaining viewing.

Read more on:    mysport24

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