Lambie still to get ‘splinters’?
Pat Lambie (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - What’s in a word? Sometimes very little, but for the moment there seems fair reason to suggest that Sharks pin-up Pat Lambie is not yet at the forefront of Heyneke Meyer
’s mind for the Springbok flyhalf berth many believe he should occupy.
When the official electronic SARU media release was issued on Sunday, announcing the Bok squad for the three-Test tour of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Lambie’s position was stubbornly listed as “fullback”.
He wasn’t even given the luxury of the “utility back” status on the list afforded to someone like Jaco Taute, the Stormers-bound loan signing from the Lions who can play at centre as well as No 15.
By the same token, Francois Hougaard
was described as “scrumhalf/wing” and one or two others also given multi-usage branding.
So it would appear that for the time being - even if coach Meyer’s thoughts certainly don’t all need to be cast irretrievably in stone - the similarly versatile Lambie is intended more to fight it out with Taute and the Steady Eddie incumbent Zane Kirchner
for the spot in the last line of defence.
It also begins to suggest that a bench role is still the likeliest activity Lambie will get on the tour, something that has frustrated his fan club to an increasing degree.
He has been in excellent form for the Sharks at pivot in the closing weeks of the Currie Cup season, where his team ended runners-up to new champions Western Province after a thrilling, high-quality final on Saturday.
As much as any other aspect of his play, the 22-year-old has been metronomically thumping his goals - he banged over another six penalties in the showpiece in greasy conditions at Mr Price Kings Park, and the strong favourites ahead of the final certainly didn’t lose it because of any special failings on Lambie’s part.
It would have been a little unjust to venture that Lambie was outsmarted on the day by WP’s Demetri Catrakalis, simply on the grounds that the latter played with increasing authority as the game progressed and deftly banged over successive late dropped goals, one off each foot, as the visitors started to assume dominance at a convenient time.
The listed flyhalves for the Bok group are Morné Steyn, who fairly predictably comes back in from the temporary cold as a “horse for course” albeit not necessarily back in best possible form, and Elton Jantjies
With a bit of luck Lambie might yet get at least some game-time in the channel ... and maybe Meyer is simply hoodwinking everyone at this stage with his proposed labelling of players’ stations.
For the rest, the 31-strong party seems largely sound enough, even if the provincially-obsessed may seek to quibble with a strong Blue Bulls emphasis in a season where the Loftus-based outfit have mostly played second fiddle in two competitions to both the Sharks and WP.
More “mature” observers, maybe, will be prepared to look beyond franchise tallies and also put things in the context of so many stalwart Boks being ruled out of the tour by injury - massively experienced and in-form wing Bryan Habana
is just the latest casualty.
However these particular Boks fare, it must be kept in mind that as many as seven players who might feasibly be branded “first-choices” for the country will be sitting out this venture.
But there is a healthy enough balance between youth and experience, despite the levels of absenteeism, and there is no reason at this upfront stage to especially fear that the Boks will struggle too glaringly to overcome any of Ireland, Scotland and England.
It is also no bad thing that Meyer has seen fit to infuse the squad with two additional overseas-based players, powerful loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp - no stranger to green and gold, of course – and that explosive-paced Saracens phenomenon at hooker, Schalk Brits.
Overlooked customers who may have reason to feel aggrieved, to varying degrees, include the likes of Louis Ludik, Gio Aplon, Deon Fourie, Keegan Daniel
and certainly Anton Bresler, the big Sharks second-rower who keeps on lifting his game and seemed ideally suited to the heavy, mauling pitches of the northern winter.
Mind you, someone like Juandré Kruger, so forceful in early season, ought to be under no illusions that he must pull up his socks anew, given the calibre of certain locks bubbling under ...Bok squad as provided by SARU:
(in order of name, province, position and number of Test caps)Willem Alberts
- Sharks - Loose forward - 17 Test caps
Arno Botha - Blue Bulls - Loose forward - 0
Schalk Brits - Saracens, England - Hooker - 3
Pat Cilliers - Golden Lions - Prop - 3Marcell Coetzee
- Sharks - Loose forward - 9
Juan de Jongh - Western Province - Centre - 12
Jean de Villiers (captain) - Western Province - Centre - 81
Jannie du Plessis - Sharks - Prop - 39Eben Etzebeth
- Western Province - Lock - 8Francois Hougaard
- Blue Bulls - Scrumhalf /Wing - 24Elton Jantjies
- Golden Lions - Flyhalf - 2Zane Kirchner
- Blue Bulls - Fullback - 21
Juandré Kruger - Blue Bulls - Lock - 5
Pat Lambie - Sharks - Fullback - 17Francois Louw
- Bath, England - Loose forward - 14
Lionel Mapoe - Golden Lions - Wing / Centre - 0Tendai Mtawarira
- Sharks - Prop - 41Lwazi Mvovo
- Sharks - Wing - 7Ruan Pienaar
- Ulster, N Ireland - Scrumhalf - 60JP Pietersen
- Sharks - Wing/Centre - 45Chiliboy Ralepelle
- Blue Bulls - Hooker - 21
Raymond Rhule - FS Cheetahs - Wing - 0Gurthrö Steenkamp
- Toulouse, France - Prop - 38
Morné Steyn - Blue Bulls - Flyhalf - 41Adriaan Strauss
- FS Cheetahs - Hooker - 18
Jaco Taute - Golden Lions - Utility back - 2
CJ van der Linde - Golden Lions - Prop - 73
Flip van der Merwe - Blue Bulls - Lock - 20
Franco van der Merwe - Golden Lions - Lock - 0Jano Vermaak
- Blue Bulls - Scrumhalf - 0Duane Vermeulen
- Western Province - No 8 - 4*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing