Cape Town – A properly “empowered”
That’s what new national coach Allister
Coetzee handing the captaincy, a little unexpectedly, to Pat Lambie for his
maiden series in charge against Ireland would translate to.
There is absolutely no guarantee the
baby-faced, calm-demeanour Sharks skipper will get the role, of course, but
rumours this week suggest it may be a shootout between him and Bulls captain
and hooker Adriaan Strauss.
Toulon’s Duane Vermeulen has been many
pundits’ choice for the portfolio in recent weeks, although the whisper in the breeze
seems to be that SARU are increasingly averse to an overseas-based player
leading the green-and-gold cause.
If Lambie does turn out to be Coetzee’s
go-to guy, it would signal a remarkable rise to fresh prominence for the
25-year-old in his interrupted year so far, considering that until last week’s
injury misfortune Elton Jantjies was heavily fancied for the No 10 jersey
against the Irish – albeit never in the pecking order for the skipper’s chore.
On that note, one major, unfortunate
consequence for the left-footed Lions pivot of a Lambie captaincy would be
obvious, further obstacles to him earning Test caps for the first time since
Should Lambie settle into the leadership
challenge well and play to known polished standards too, he would almost
certainly spend more time on the Test park than most team-mates, potentially
thwarting game-time for Jantjies even if he is available again for duty towards
the later part of the Irish series.
It might even see resurface inevitable
speculation that Coetzee has reservations around Jantjies going back to his
unproductive time in the Stormers fold in 2013 when he was distracted by
For me, though, the major significance of
Lambie possibly bagging the captaincy would be the natural, elevated level of
empowerment it would bring to his flyhalf role specifically.
He would be the first No 10 holder of the
national leadership since Naas Botha in 1992, when he led the Boks one last
time in a 33-16 loss to Will Carling’s England at Twickenham that November, already
aged 34 by then.
There is an understandable school of
thought that although South Africa possesses some genuinely talented flyhalves
– headed by the trio of Lambie, Handre Pollard and Jantjies – they have been impeded
in recent times in the Test jersey by conservative, overly “scripted”
game-plans and not always been able to
show off their best skills, instincts or game management.
For example, the quip towards the business
end of RWC 2015 was that veteran loose forward Schalk Burger was the flyhalf
rather than Pollard, so often was he the first receiver for the Boks in the
fading embers of Heyneke Meyer’s regime.
If Lambie called the team shots on the
field, you’d certainly expect him to be more assertive in flyhalf strategy and
option-taking by extension too, and that could turn into a blessing for the
Boks’ development under new mastermind Coetzee.
Still, let’s not forget that Patrick
Jonathan Lambie isn’t South Africa’s captain yet …
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing