Lambie nudges the selectors
Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Durban - He was probably going to be in the Springbok preliminary Rugby World Cup squad that will be named on Monday for the World Cup anyway, but Patrick Lambie can still feel that his outstanding performance at Loftus came at just the right time.
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As one of the Sharks management put it on Saturday night, “Pat surely played himself into the Springbok squad today, surely they can’t leave him out now”.
Indeed, what Lambie confirmed in his starring role for the Sharks in their epic 26-23 win over the Bulls was that he can slot in almost anywhere in the backline, so even if just for utility value, he simply has to be part of the group that goes to New Zealand.
At this stage of the build-up to the World Cup it appears Butch James, who has shown solid form for the Lions, is the front-runner to wear the No 10 jersey at the big games at the tournament.
With 49 players being named in the group on Monday, it will be interesting to see if Lambie’s team-mate Jean Deysel makes the cut. The big flank has only returned recently from injury, but it is understood that the Bok management do like the attributes that he could bring to the World Cup effort and he must stand an outside chance of selection.
Not that there is any shortage of players in his position. Ashley Johnson has been brilliant for the Cheetahs recently and while the Stormers loose trio came out on top in their battle in Bloemfontein at the weekend, the amount of attention they paid to Johnson in his efforts to get across the gainline confirmed the massive respect they have for him.
The Boks are banking on Juan Smith being fit for the World Cup so he will be part of the group named on Monday, as will Heinrich Brussow, who hasn’t seen much action this season but when he has he has shown that he has lost none of his Midas touch in winning the ball back from the breakdowns.
Talking of injuries, the Duane Vermeulen injury, sustained playing for the Stormers against the Cheetahs, might precipitate one change among the loose-forward group. Vermeulen is to undergo scans to his severely injured knee on Monday but it is feared the injury may be serious enough to ruin his chances of being part of the World Cup.
With the Springbok captaincy issue wisely having been sorted out at the first planning camp of 2011, the leadership won’t be much of a talking point when the squad is named, but John Smit’s presence on the bench for all but one minute of his team’s great win over the Bulls has to be a concern.
It is understood the Boks intend starting with Smit in the big games at the World Cup, but Bismarck du Plessis has consistently proved this season when he does start for the Sharks that he is in a league of his own. Can the Boks afford to leave Du Plessis out of the starting team in a match against New Zealand?
With 49 players being named in what is an obligatory pre-World Cup IRB requirement, meaning that 19 will drop out of the group over the coming months, there are unlikely to be any controversial inclusions or omissions. It is anticipated that Bjorn Basson, a controversial absentee at the last planning session in Durban, will be included this time, while Bok coach Peter de Villiers should be pleased with the improved form shown by Bryan Habana against the Cheetahs.
Indeed, with JP Pietersen so consistently outstanding for the Sharks and Lwazi Mvovo also playing well, wing suddenly doesn’t look the problem position it was threatening to be.