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
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
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
It is time for this talented footballer to
be allowed to brush off some cobwebs ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing