The Great Debate: Jantjies or Lambie?

2016-10-27 13:07
Elton Jantjies v Pat Lambie (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - With Morne Steyn axed from the Springbok squad for the end-of-year northern hemisphere tour, coach Allister Coetzee has a big decision to make at flyhalf. 

With Handre Pollard out injured, the two most likely options are Elton Jantjies and Pat Lambie

Johan Goosen has his supporters, but the Racing 92 centre has been used by Coetzee at fullback instead. 

Lambie started as Coetzee's first-choice flyhalf at the start of the Ireland series back in June, but concussion then ruled him out for the next six Bok games. 

When he returned, with just two home matches left in the Rugby Championship, Lambie was used at fullback. 

Meanwhile, Jantjies played in seven straight matches after Lambie was sidelined. 

With crucial Tests against England, Italy and Wales next month, who will Coetzee entrust in the pivotal No 10 jersey?

Sport24 editor Garrin Lambley believes that Jantjies deserves another shot while rugby correspondent Lloyd Burnard is in Lambie's corner. 

Here are their arguments:


Admittedly it's a toss-up between Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies and Sharks star Pat Lambie as to who should start the Test against England at Twickenham on November 12.

With Morne Steyn somewhat shockingly axed from the Boks squad after scoring all 33 of the Boks' last, you guessed it, 33 points with the boot against both the Wallabies and All Blacks, a new face is required in the No 10 jersey.

The argument AGAINST Lambie starting at flyhalf at England HQ is probably stronger than the argument FOR Jantjies getting the nod.

Lambie, who sat out the vast majority of this year's Super Rugby tournament having suffered an injury pre-season, played 22 minutes at flyhalf at Newlands in the first Test against Ireland before being knocked out cold by Irish loose forward CJ Stander.

Lambie wasn't seen again for 16 weeks until the Boks hosted Australia at Pretoria - when he ran out at fullback.

Lambie, who is on record as stating his preference for fullback, was once again selected in the No 15 jersey against the All Blacks at his beloved Kings Park in a Test sooner forgotten the better!

Besides those fleeting few minutes in Cape Town, Lambie hasn't started a Test for South Africa at flyhalf since perhaps the darkest day in Green & Gold history - the Rugby World Cup defeat to Japan in Brighton on September 19 last year.

Lambie wasn't a shadow of his former self in those two final Rugby Championship Tests, simply electing to field-and-kick rather than hit the line and take contact with any degree of authority, clearly still fearful of taking a repeat knock to the head.

On the contrary, Jantjies was not only the standout flyhalf, but South African player in Super Rugby this season, leading the Lions to their maiden final.

He was rewarded for his efforts by being named Super Rugby Player of the Year earlier in the week. 

Jantjies led the Boks to a series victory against Ireland - at flyhalf - as the team rebounded from their shock loss at Newlands to record wins in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.

Jantjies was also entrusted with the No 10 jersey in the Boks' Rugby Championship win over Argentina (in Nelspruit).

Counting in Jantjies' favour in what can be no more than a coin-toss selection, is that coach Coetzee would be well advised to take note of the fact his current 33-man squad "only" contains 10 players of colour (30%) - a far cry from the 50/50 split Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula has insisted on for the 2019 World Cup - now under three years away.


I have always been a massive supporter of Elton Jantjies. It came in unfortunate circumstances after Lambie was concussed, but when Jantjies was given an extended run in the No 10 jersey I was excited, to say the least. 

He was finally going to showcase his skills on the highest stage and prove that he was one of the most dynamic flyhalves in world rugby.

Except, he didn't. 

Jantjies struggled throughout his mini-stint. 

And Coetzee made sure that everybody knew it. 

It was subtle, but Coetzee continuously hit out at the quality of tactical kicking and game management under Jantjies in those last two Ireland Tests and the beginning of the Rugby Championship. 

Jantjies was showing flashes of brilliance, but simply wasn't controlling things the way Coetzee would have liked. Shaky goal-kicking, inconsistent tactical kicking and decision-making ... those were Coetzee's main concerns with Jantjies. 

When Morne Steyn guided the Boks to an uninspiring 18-10 win over the Aussies in Pretoria, Coetzee was full of praise for the veteran No 10, highlighting his impact with the boot. 

Coetzee's flyhalves must be able to kick, first and foremost. Think Demetri Catrakilis at the Stormers. 

But that isn't enough, as the 57-15 All Black annihilation proved. 

As the Boks look to evolve and Coetzee seeks a South African blueprint, he needs to move on from the traditional flyhalf. For that reason, Steyn has been dropped. 

Coetzee has also spoken about balance. 

At the beginning of his reign, against Ireland, he looked to run the ball fearlessly. 

But there is a fine line between being fearless and irresponsible. 

With Steyn on the one side of the spectrum and Jantjies on the other, Lambie is the voice of reason that provides the balance. He has the spark to facilitate attacking rugby, but also the core fundamentals to do the basics well.

In the northern hemisphere, conditions play a big part. Tactical kicking, place kicking, defence and aerial ability all become crucial for your No 10, and at this stage Lambie looks a better option than Jantjies in all of those departments. 

It is also worth noting that Lambie started at flyhalf in 2012 and 2014 when the Boks beat England at Twickenham.

Jantjies should still be viewed as a crucial player for the Boks - on this tour and beyond. 

For now, though, I think he should be used as an impact player. If the Boks are chasing a game, then he is exactly the type of player you want on your bench to come on and spark something. 

For Lambie, this could present the biggest opportunity he has had so far in his career to make the flyhalf position his own. 

Pollard's return looms. 

Jantjies? Lambie? Or someone else to start at flyhalf for the Springboks against England at Twickenham? Let us know at mysport@sport24.co.za

Read more on:    springboks  |  pat lambie  |  elton jantjies  |  rugby

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