Pat Lambie is expected to start against Wales and looks to have surpassed Handré Pollard in the Springbok flyhalf pecking order, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
Three months ago, Heyneke Meyer took a chance and started the one-cap Pollard at No 10 against Argentina. The Bok coach then backed the 20-year-old as the first-choice pivot in New Zealand, and in the following two Rugby Championship clashes in South Africa.
Pollard was outstanding in the Tests against the All Blacks and Wallabies, and was backed to start in the Boks’ first game of the European tour against Ireland. Meyer, however, said he would be looking at both Pollard and Lambie as starting options over the course of the four-game sojourn. The Bok coach made it clear that Pollard had plenty to prove in northern hemisphere conditions that would demand a more tactical approach.
In Dublin, Pollard battled in the wet. Meyer then stuck to a premeditated plan to start Lambie against England. Lambie made that chance count with an accurate and composed performance.
The Sharks player was picked to start against Italy, and all indications suggest he will start at No 10 against Wales this Saturday. The only changes to the backline for the coming game will be at 11, 14 and 15.
Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, and Johan Goosen have all returned to their respective clubs. Lwazi Mvovo, Cornal Hendricks and Willie le Roux will come into the starting side.
Cobus Reinach and Lambie are expected to retain their positions at scrumhalf and flyhalf. Jan Serfontein and Jean de Villiers should start in the centres, although SARugbymag.co.za understands that Damian de Allende is being considered. If the powerful Stormers midfielder doesn’t start, he will get game time from the bench.
Wales are expected to field close to a full-strength combination this Saturday. The French-based players are available, regardless of the fact the game falls outside the Test window. This means Lambie and company will need to deal with centres Jamie Roberts (Racing Métro) and Jonathan Davies (Clermont) running down their channel.
On Tuesday, Lambie said he was grateful for the extended opportunity to start against both England and Italy. After missing much of the Super Rugby season with a bicep injury, it’s clear he's relishing the prospect of even more game time.
The thought of tackling Roberts, who has caused so many problems for South Africa in the past, doesn’t seem to worry him.
‘It’s part of the job description, having the big guys like Roberts running at you,’ he said. ‘I believe our defence will be up to the task.
‘As far as attack is concerned, I feel we’ve made good progress on this tour. Sometimes it’s on to run it, and sometimes you need to play a more tactical game. The coach [Meyer] has always said he wants a flyhalf who can do both.’
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