Nicest human I coached: Meyer on Lambie

2019-01-22 13:51
Heyneke Meyer (left) and Pat Lambie (Gallo).
Heyneke Meyer (left) and Pat Lambie (Gallo).

Cape Town – Personal attributes that matched or even edged his ability as a rugby player … that is how Heyneke Meyer, easily his most regular Springbok coach, will remember the career of prematurely-retired Pat Lambie.

Speaking to Sport24 from a snowy Paris on Tuesday, Meyer, now the mastermind of Stade Francais in the French Top 14, said Lambie’s bravery had probably played at least a partial, cruel role in his decision to step down from the game at the age of only 28 due to the effects of several concussions.

READ: I have to keep pinching myself - Lambie

“As we all know, he wasn’t the biggest rugby player ever (1.77m, 86kg) but he had a serious all-round game and that included a very solid tackle (technique) and commitment.

“He would put his body on the line 100 percent of the time, never shied away from the contact side of things, and was safe under a high ball as well.

“Pat is way up there with the best talents I ever coached, but I will say this without any doubt at all: there was no better human being in my Bok squads.

“Wherever he has gone in the world professionally, he has quickly come to be considered one of the most likeable guys in the fold.

“I never coached a guy with better manners than him and remember telling his parents once that if my kids could be the same as he was, I would be very happy.

“He has honesty, integrity … I don’t know of a single player who didn’t like Pat. They are qualities that make you appreciate why he was captaining his various sports teams from a very young age.

“Of course, he covered several positions, and even when he wasn’t starting matches, he would invariably stay positive, cheerful … a great example to everyone around him.”

Lambie earned 39 of his 56 Bok appearances (69.64 percent) during Meyer’s tenure between 2012 and 2015, so he is especially well qualified to judge Lambie’s attributes.

It is also a fact that the former Sharks favourite only started 22 Test matches, but Meyer says: “I know it seems easy to say this in (retrospect), but he was good enough to have started 50.

“The big thing that counted against him was his injuries, and not just concussion-related ones. He was seldom able to have uninterrupted runs in a particular position as a result; at Bok level you just don’t always have the luxury of playing a guy in.

“It really is sad that he has had to retire at this point; he should be at his best in career terms round about now, and could have been a real force at the 2019 World Cup had he not suffered all these setbacks.”

Unsurprisingly, Meyer’s most vivid memory of Lambie in his era as Bok coach was his nerveless, match-winning penalty from behind the halfway line in the 78th minute of a see-sawing Test against the All Blacks (clinched 27-25) at Ellis Park in 2014.

“Look, Pat has always been a reliable place-kicker but that range is not usually his forte, so I couldn’t be sure about his chances with it.

“But then I saw how calmly and purposefully he stepped up to prepare for the kick, how keenly he put his hand up for it, and I suddenly started to properly believe he was going to goal it … we deserved to win that match and it is one of the best memories of my career.

“Pat is going to be very successful after rugby; he’s bigger than rugby and will have a great life with his family.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  pat lambie  |  heyneke meyer  |  rugby


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