Rugby Championship

Bok assets mount at No 10

2014-09-29 14:12
Pat Lambie (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Handre Pollard, Pat Lambie, Morne Steyn ... who knows what the pecking order will look like by roughly this time next year at the World Cup, but it seems increasingly likely all three flyhalves will earn passages to the event.

Some countries may limit their specialist No 10 squad options to two at RWC 2015, but with both Pollard (inside centre) and Lambie (fullback, and possibly also midfield) offering handy emergency options elsewhere on the park, the entire trio gracing the squad is a decent bet.

Saturday saw Lambie, in his 35th appearance - and 23rd as a substitute - deliver arguably his most commanding showing yet in a Bok jersey, as he was among several infusions off the bench to greatly aid the eleventh-hour surge to a comfortable Castle Rugby Championship victory over Australia at Newlands.

He replaced the 20-year-old Pollard in the 59th minute, when the Boks were still trailing to the hitherto fiercely committed and largely leak-proof Wallabies, and his welcome assuredness, thrust and urgency in the position influenced the charge to an unlikely four-try “full house” win.

Personally, I had never previously seen Lambie boss an international game to the extent he did in those productive 21 minutes; he has often before seemed more competent than genuinely assertive for South Africa, whether at pivot or in the last line of defence.

There may even be the temptation to give him a full run-out in the slot against New Zealand at Ellis Park on Saturday, though ditching the callow but massively promising Pollard again - just because he blew hot and cold against the Aussies - would be a harmful statement, probably giving him an unnecessary feeling of insecurity at a sensitive developmental stage for him.

Let’s not forget how compelling he was the last time the Boks played the very All Blacks, in Wellington not much more than a fortnight ago when a famous victory chance flickered so promisingly towards the end.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that in this trio of No 10s potentially at coach Heyneke Meyer’s disposal come pleasingly differing virtues, something that could come in extremely handy at the autumnal World Cup in the UK, when conditions could be dry and benign one week and miserably wet and cold the next.

Apart from his key edge in experience - 59 Bok caps - Steyn remains a valuable character to have around for the time-honoured accuracy of both his place-kicking and tactical boot; just the kind of flyhalf you require in a tight northern-clime arm wrestle contested in hail and howling wind.

Just for example, it is unlikely the former Bulls points machine would have missed the relatively straightforward penalty kick Lambie fluffed shortly after his entry to the thrilling Newlands fray on Saturday, although the Sharks favourite kept his cool admirably and quickly made amends with a dropped goal to put Bok noses back in front 11-10 after 70 minutes and just ahead of the remarkable try spree.

As for Pollard ... yes, the “kid” is prone to inconsistency, but that is a common enough hallmark in someone who has played a mere five Test matches, and rough edges will iron out with time in the green and gold shirt.

If he reminded of one attribute in his iffy hour against the Wallabies at the weekend, it was his physical strength and directness on the ball, which did help give the collective cause some good go-forward at times, a la Henry Honiball of yesteryear.

Three very different flyhalves, all with varying strengths and drawbacks.

It isn’t the worst situation for the Boks to be in - even if the All Blacks’ collective arsenal in the berth remains that bit more enviable - and may allow some shrewd horses-for-courses selections in unpredictable September and October next year at the World Cup ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  pat lambie  |  rugby

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