Pat Lambie has shown Heyneke Meyer why he should be the Springboks' first-choice No 10 at the 2015 World Cup in England, writes JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has declared himself satisfied with the number of flyhalf options at his disposal. Lambie, Handré Pollard, Morné Steyn, and even Johan Goosen should be included in next year’s World Cup squad. After what’s transpired on the current tour, however, it seems likely Lambie will travel to that tournament as the incumbent No 10.
Lambie recently started against England in London and Italy in Padova, and has been selected to start against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday. He has brought balance and composure to that No 10 position, and his experience has helped less-seasoned players such as Cobus Reinach and Jan Serfontein settle in their respective positions of scrumhalf and inside centre.
Meyer told me on Wednesday that he has not lost faith in Pollard. The Bok coach hasn’t lost faith in Steyn either, and is still a great believer in the potential of Goosen. Meyer said there is a plan for these players, and that Pollard in particular will receive further starting opportunities next season.
What has been clear by the selections on the current tour to the northern hemisphere is that Meyer views Lambie as the man for the present and near future. It could be that Lambie’s all-round game and experience in these wet conditions wins him selection at next year’s World Cup. Pollard may need to settle for an opportunity from the bench.
Pollard is the finest attacking flyhalf to come out of South Africa in many years. He showed real ticker when starting against the All Blacks in New Zealand in September. His vision and decision-making certainly enhanced the team’s attack, and contributed to the big wins against the All Blacks and Wallabies in the last two games of the Rugby Championship.
Meyer said that at this stage Pollard is a great starting option in the dry conditions of South Africa. It's here where the game is played at a higher tempo and Pollard's natural strengths come to the fore. On the heavier, weather afflicted tracks of the north, however, Pollard is still a work in progress.
Pollard struggled in torrential conditions in the opening game of the Rugby Championship against the Pumas. He battled to impose himself on a wet surface in Dublin. There are concerns that his tactical-kicking game is not yet up to standard, especially in this part of the world.
It’s not that Pollard doesn’t have the potential to become the all-round option. He's just not there yet. One should remember the kid is only 20.
Lambie has started twice already on this tour, and has made those opportunities count. His option-taking and kicking was particularly good in the match against England. His composure has been impressive, and he is considered a strong leader by his teammates. This is the package the Boks are looking for at No 10, especially in such difficult conditions.
It remains to be seen whether Lambie, and indeed the other three players vying for the starting flyhalf berth, make it to next year’s World Cup. Lambie has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years, as has Goosen. Injuries could very well change that pecking order over the next few months.
From what we’ve seen thus far, however, it appears as if Meyer will favour the formula of Lambie starting, and then Pollard providing attacking impetus in the second half if the game opens up.
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