Rugby Championship

Lambie deserves a Bok start

2015-07-28 19:12
Pat Lambie (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – In one gutsy, crucial tackle just four minutes after his appearance as a substitute, it should not have escaped Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s attention that Pat Lambie simultaneously sent out a powerful “remember me?” appeal last Saturday.

Deputising for starter Willie le Roux at fullback, Lambie had to find his game legs in a hurry as one of the All Blacks’ own supersubs, midfielder Malakai Fekitoa, launched a typically threatening solo breakout from long range in the 67th minute, looking for all money as though he might rampage all the way to beneath the Bok posts.

Swift, alert action was needed and Lambie - underdog in the muscularity stakes - read Fekitoa’s intentions to a tee, lunging at one of his legs as he swerved, bringing his raid to a firm halt as the Tongan-born powerhouse hit the unforgiving Highveld turf.

Remember that the Boks were leading at the time and it was through no fault on Lambie’s part that they eventually succumbed 27-20 after dominating very healthy passages of the universally acclaimed thriller.

The Sharks favourite, who missed a significant dollop of the Super Rugby season after a neck vertebrae injury (effectively a break, they say) suffered against the Crusaders in early April, has been curtailed to a bench role in all three Bok matches so far in 2015 after going through a determined rehabilitation programme.

He is short of a proper gallop as a result and, considering the versatile and proven qualities he brings to the green-and-gold mix, seems desperately due for a start.

The diligent planner in Meyer probably appreciates that, so with a bit of luck Lambie will get it in either or both of the coming Tests against Argentina (home and then away with the latter a non-Championship affair).

Lambie, 24, is as equipped to take up the flyhalf cudgels as he is fullback ... perhaps even more so, of course.

But with young Handre Pollard just beginning to boom in confidence again at No 10, even if his hand-skills game and physical contribution is presently eclipsing his all-round kicking, it may be a better bet for that useful bastion in unpredictability Willie le Roux to take a wee mental break against the Pumas and for Lambie to occupy the last line of defence at his home venue of Kings Park on Saturday week.

Pollard could arguably benefit more from votes of confidence and continuity at this point than another sidelining which could cause fresh seeds of insecurity, even given the experimentation and rotation accompanying Bok selections ahead of the World Cup.

We know what mercurial attacking dimensions Le Roux brings, but Lambie is a good foil for him at No 15 in that his defensive game is more trustworthy and he may become a good horses-for-courses pick at times there during the RWC – it is not as though he lacks own vibrancy or gumption going forward.

Remember that the KwaZulu-Natalian, soon to be a franchise ally of Le Roux’s in Durban, served the Boks decently in the last line of defence at the 2011 World Cup, where he began four matches.

That included the controversial “Bryce Lawrence” quarter-final against Australia, where the Boks were edged 11-9 – the only time in seven starts for his country at fullback thus far where Lambie has tasted defeat.

It is time for this talented footballer to be allowed to brush off some cobwebs ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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

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