What Lambie Bok leadership would mean

2016-05-27 14:33
Pat Lambie (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – A properly “empowered” Springbok flyhalf.

That’s what new national coach Allister Coetzee handing the captaincy, a little unexpectedly, to Pat Lambie for his maiden series in charge against Ireland would translate to.

There is absolutely no guarantee the baby-faced, calm-demeanour Sharks skipper will get the role, of course, but rumours this week suggest it may be a shootout between him and Bulls captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss.

Toulon’s Duane Vermeulen has been many pundits’ choice for the portfolio in recent weeks, although the whisper in the breeze seems to be that SARU are increasingly averse to an overseas-based player leading the green-and-gold cause.

If Lambie does turn out to be Coetzee’s go-to guy, it would signal a remarkable rise to fresh prominence for the 25-year-old in his interrupted year so far, considering that until last week’s injury misfortune Elton Jantjies was heavily fancied for the No 10 jersey against the Irish – albeit never in the pecking order for the skipper’s chore.

On that note, one major, unfortunate consequence for the left-footed Lions pivot of a Lambie captaincy would be obvious, further obstacles to him earning Test caps for the first time since 2012.

Should Lambie settle into the leadership challenge well and play to known polished standards too, he would almost certainly spend more time on the Test park than most team-mates, potentially thwarting game-time for Jantjies even if he is available again for duty towards the later part of the Irish series.

It might even see resurface inevitable speculation that Coetzee has reservations around Jantjies going back to his unproductive time in the Stormers fold in 2013 when he was distracted by personal issues.

For me, though, the major significance of Lambie possibly bagging the captaincy would be the natural, elevated level of empowerment it would bring to his flyhalf role specifically.

He would be the first No 10 holder of the national leadership since Naas Botha in 1992, when he led the Boks one last time in a 33-16 loss to Will Carling’s England at Twickenham that November, already aged 34 by then.

There is an understandable school of thought that although South Africa possesses some genuinely talented flyhalves – headed by the trio of Lambie, Handre Pollard and Jantjies – they have been impeded in recent times in the Test jersey by conservative, overly “scripted” game-plans and  not always been able to show off their best skills, instincts or game management.

For example, the quip towards the business end of RWC 2015 was that veteran loose forward Schalk Burger was the flyhalf rather than Pollard, so often was he the first receiver for the Boks in the fading embers of Heyneke Meyer’s regime.

If Lambie called the team shots on the field, you’d certainly expect him to be more assertive in flyhalf strategy and option-taking by extension too, and that could turn into a blessing for the Boks’ development under new mastermind Coetzee.

Still, let’s not forget that Patrick Jonathan Lambie isn’t South Africa’s captain yet …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  pat lambie  |  rugby

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