Pietermaritzburg - The loss of flyhalf Pat Lambie for an extended period has thrown up a host of problems, not only for the Sharks’ Gary Gold but also for the next Springbok coach.
Gold, as the Sharks head coach, has to not only find a long-term flyhalf replacement for Lambie but he also has to name a new captain. SA Rugby, in turn, first have to find a Springbok coach and then he has to pull a flyhalf from the hat now that Lambie has joined Handré Pollard on the sidelines.
Gold has a couple of options at flyhalf and the choice of either the exciting young Garth April, a lively performer in the Sharks’ friendly against Toulouse last week, or the experience of Joe Pietersen, who showed excellent form against Toulon in the opening tour game.
The Sharks coach also has fit-again Inny Radebe, the former Impis pivot, in the squad while Springbok fullback Willie le Roux is also comfortable in the flyhalf role.
Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee, named as the Sharks vice-captain ahead of the season, led the team to their excellent win over Toulouse and is expected to take over the captaincy. The other experienced leader in the squad is Keegan Daniel, who has captained the Sharks on 59 occasions and has suddenly returned to Durban after spending two years in Japan.
The Springbok coach, whoever he may be, will find the flyhalf cupboard ominously bare. It is a long shot but Lambie, who is only scheduled to return to action late in May, could possibly be ready for the June internationals.
The Springboks’ World Cup flyhalf Pollard is out for the year following knee surgery and other leading candidates from past seasons, Johan Goosen, Morné Steyn and Francois Steyn, are playing for French clubs.
The obvious local challenger is Elton Jantjies, a creative flyhalf but with a tendency to blow hot or cold, and his Super Rugby form for the Lions will be under scrutiny.
The position of the Springbok coach is also clouded in uncertainty. SA Rugby’s CEO Jurie Roux was initially in charge of finding a suitable candidate but his own rugby future is now hanging in the balance following allegations of financial mismanagement, and he has, reportedly, been relieved of that task.
It appears that SA Rugby’s general manager and former Test flank Rassie Erasmus will act as an interim coach and, with so many Springboks either injured or working on their pensions in Europe, his job will not be an easy one.