Cape Town - With the 2015 Rugby World Cup less than a year away, has Pat Lambie entrenched himself as favourite to start at No 10 for the Springboks in next year's showpiece event?
The Sharks pivot was on Wednesday retained as the Bok starting flyhalf for Saturday's Test against Wales in Cardiff.
It will be Lambie’s third Test start in a row in the No 10 jersey, after he replaced Handre Pollard for the match against England at Twickenham.
Pollard started in the Boks' opening end of year tour defeat to Ireland on November 8, before Lambie was given a chance.
Lambie produced a stellar performance against England as the Boks rebounded from the defeat in Dublin with a sound win at the ‘Home of Rugby’. He varied his attacking and kicking game well and slotted a late drop goal which put the game out of England's reach.
Before Lambie’s three-game starting sequence, Pollard had been the Bok incumbent at No 10 for four consecutive Tests. Both Pollard and Lambie have moved ahead of Morne Steyn in the pecking order after the latter’s failure to find touch late in the Rugby Championship game against Australia in Perth, when the hosts counter-attacked to score a winning try.
With coach Heyneke Meyer trying out Johan Goosen to shore up his options at fullback, and Steyn not featuring since his mishap in Perth, it’s clear that Lambie and Pollard are the two front-runners for the Springbok No 10 shirt heading into 2015.
Meyer has spoken of his desire for his flyhalf to take the ball to the line with front-foot ball, as well as being good from a tactical point of view.
So which flyhalf is in the pound seats with regards to next year’s Rugby World Cup? Could it be that Lambie's stellar performances on European soil have made him the front-runner?
Lambie has performed adequately in Northern Hemisphere conditions in the last while, varying his tactical and attacking game to a great extent.
In 2012, he impressed when he started at flyhalf in all three of the Boks' Tests on their year-end tour. The Boks beat Ireland, Scotland and England to finish Meyer's first season in charge on a high note. Despite an impressive end to that year, Lambie again fell behind Steyn in the pecking order for much of the 2013 season. On last year's tour to Europe he was twice utilised at fullback, while starting at flyhalf in the 28-0 win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
Lambie hasn't seen as much game time during the Boks' Incoming Tour and Rugby Championship Tests, but seems to have thrived in conditions up north. Another decent showing against Wales this Saturday would surely make him favourite to don the No 10 jersey at next year's World Cup, given the fact that the tournament will be played in similar conditions.