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Pat Lambie has the potential to be a great Test flyhalf but he must play in the position as much as possible and feature there for the Sharks as well, said Springbok kicking coach Louis Koen yesterday.
Lambie will make his third straight appearance in the No10 jersey for the Boks when they clash with England at Twickenham on Saturday, and it appears the 22-year-old’s future as an international flyhalf will be determined to a large extent how he goes against the old enemy.
The baby-faced assassin, as some like to call him, has enjoyed a decent tour after getting a chance against Ireland and then also playing at 10 against Scotland last weekend. But it will be Saturday’s performance, against Toby Flood, which will probably determine whether coach Heyneke Meyer sticks with Lambie next year or looks at someone else.
Let’s not forget Johan Goosen is probably Meyer’s first choice man anyway, while Elton Jantjies is waiting in the wings and Morné Steyn is the Bok boss’s “insurance policy”.
But yesterday Koen said Lambie had all the attributes to be a great Test flyhalf, adding that he just needs time to settle into the position.
“Pat’s an exceptional rugby player; he’s got everything and I’ve got so much confidence in him,” said Koen.
“I feel he needs to play at 10 a lot more, though.
“If he does I believe he will blossom. It’s imperative he play at flyhalf for the Sharks as well, not only for his own career but for South African rugby as well.” Lambie was at one stage deemed to be too much of a “running No10” with Meyer insisting he work on his tactical kicking game.
He has kicked far more than usual during the Boks’ tour of Europe, but it is still something Koen feels the Sharks man can work on. Every player is continuously working on some aspect of his game, not only Pat.
“The tactical aspect of his game will improve the more he plays. He’s not 100percent there yet, but it will come,” said Koen.
“It hasn’t helped him that he’s played so much at fullback and right now he’s finally playing for a long time at 10.
“Test rugby is very different to Super Rugby. There is less space and less time and in the case of us being in Europe, the ball is much slower coming out of the breakdown.
“And when that happens the flyhalf has to decide whether to kick for space or try set up an extra phase to get quicker ball. Decision-making is key in this regard. Pat, though, has a great future ahead of him.”
While Lambie hasn’t fully taken his opportunity on this tour, one area of his game that Koen is especially pleased about is his strong defence, calling his attitude and execution in this regard “phenomenal”.
Koen added he was generally pleased with the Boks’ kicking game, but there was always room for improvement.
“Against Scotland we kicked the ball 14 times in the first half and had 10 positive outcomes. In the second half we kicked 10 times but only had two positive outcomes, so our execution in kicking can improve.
“Our inexperience also let us down at times and the guys panicked a bit under pressure .
“But I thought the timing of our kicks was spot on.”
Saturday’s win over Scotland was the first time in eight Tests that the Boks kicked more than their opponents, but that was largely due to the pressure the tourists found themselves under in the second half when they were heavily penalised and on the back foot.