Breyton Paulse

Grant is top of the class

2011-03-16 12:14
Breyton Paulse
Breyton Paulse

After years of drought, it is great to see the sudden proliferation of promising players who are adding to the South African depth at flyhalf and who are making the battle to be Morne Steyn’s understudy at the Rugby World Cup such an absorbing one.

It is the two players who went on the last Springbok tour, Patrick Lambie and Elton Jantjies, who are top of the class when it comes to the new kids on the block. Both of them have great futures ahead of them and Lambie in particular has impressed me, both in this Super Rugby season and in the Currie Cup last year, with what he brings to the Sharks’ attacking game.

However while they both have incredible potential, they are still learning the trade and they may need to play more before we can be confident of their ability to play in a high pressure game for the Springboks at the World Cup. In particular they need to work on their place-kicking, for as everyone knows, World Cup finals are usually decided by kicks at goal.

It is because he brings experience and he has improved both the length of his field kicks and his success rate with his place-kicks that Peter Grant would be my tip at this point to be the dark horse selection to the World Cup squad. Although he is due to go back to Japan in July, Peter has a clause in his contract which releases him for Springbok duty should he be selected.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers can do a lot worse than re-open his focus on Grant, who was part of the squad in Div’s first year in charge but never got to play much. Perhaps that was because of problems with Grant’s kicking game, but those appear to have been ironed out in Japan. Peter possesses perhaps the most important asset of all for a modern flyhalf, which is ability to comfortably take the ball up to the gainline and thus bring the players around him into the game.

Against the Highlanders the other night he also showed he can break the line and he is a master at dictating the tempo of the game, which is something the two younger flyhalves might still need to learn and need to work on.

Of course Butch James also has what Grant has in terms of experience and gain-line prowess, plus he has the experience of having already played in and won a World Cup. But while it is great to see that Butch will shortly be returning to the South African game with the Lions, there is a big question mark over his fitness.

Butch has picked up a lot of injuries during his career, particularly to his knees, and it remains to be seen whether in this World Cup year he can manage to do what he did in the last World Cup year in 2007 by remaining injury free.

Looking beyond this World Cup to the next four year cycle, South African rugby will be well served by players like Lambie and Jantjies. For a player so young, Lambie’s performance in last year’s Currie Cup final was astounding, and in that match he answered many questions about his temperament.

Jantjies has also been a refreshing arrival on the South African scene and his coach John Mitchell should be complimented for the way he has stuck with him even though he has made some costly mistakes. Once he has sorted out his goalkicking he will be a great player as he has everything from an attacking perspective and is also not afraid of tackling.

With players in the mould of Jantjes, Lambie and Grant at flyhalf the quality of the overall back-play can only improve and South African teams will be better equipped to employ the attacking style the modern game demands.

One disturbing feature of the most recent rounds of Super Rugby has been the number of yellow cards dished out, and also the penalties that have impacted negatively on the flow of some games. Hopefully the coaches are working hard on this aspect as we saw in the Sharks/Rebels game as well as the Force/Blues match what an impact a yellow card can have on a team’s chances.

Finally my condolences to the people affected by the devastating earth-quake in Japan.

The Chosen One award was this week easy to decide – it has to go to the Lions for breaking their long sequence of defeats.

Powerade Weekly Hydration Tip:

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Breyton Paulse is a former Springbok player and is the Powerade Chosen One expert columnist

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    rugby world cup  |  breyton paulse

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