If Super Rugby tends to be extended trials for the Springboks, Patrick Lambie could be an early front runner for the flyhalf position, and he in turn says his time as the Springbok flyhalf last November has helped develop his game.
The Sharks pivot had an immaculate all round game against a Cheetahs side on Saturday that included Johan Goosen, the starting flyhalf in the Boks’ last home game against the All Blacks in Soweto last year.
Goosen, to be fair, is on the comeback trail from injury.
Elton Jantjies, who came on in that same Boks game for the injured Goosen, had a mixed game for the Stormers at Loftus, while veteran Morne Steyn delivered a good performance for the Bulls and, like Lambie, nailed seven goalkicks out of seven.
“Pat is going really well,” said his coach, John Plumtree.
“There is a strong challenge in South Africa for the flyhalf position, there always has been. It’s probably the most talked about position. There is always a lot of pressure on the 10, but Pat has the calm demeanour needed for that position.
“He’s growing in his communication with the team, which is vital and you cannot underestimate the importance of his tactical kicking and goal-kicking.”
Lambie’s kicking out of hand was outstanding on the weekend and probably the difference between the teams.
“He’s getting there,” Plumtree smiled “It’s a process and hopefully he can avoid injuries. Then we’ll have a much better product by the end of Super Rugby, which will be great for the Springboks if he carries on playing well. But he needs to keep getting good ball.
“The forwards have a responsibility to deliver the kind of ball he needs. And it’s good to have the type of firepower around him in big ball-carriers like JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn.”
Lambie, who was at yesterday’s press conference alongside Plumtree, said his time with the Boks last season was beneficial to him.
“Hopefully I’ve grown a lot,” he said. “I believe I have a better understanding of the game from a tactical perspective after being with the national team – learning when to run, when to kick, and trying to get my eyes up to see space behind rather than just the space in front.
“Against the Stormers on Saturday, that will play a big part. The Bulls’ tactical kicking was on song against the Stormers and they got reward for that.”
Lambie praised Springbok kicking coach Louis Koen, who played flyhalf for the Boks. “Working with Louis last year was great for me and I really enjoyed it,” the 22-year-old said.
“He challenged us every week with different kicking tactics, different drills in different areas, and he also focused on the mental side of things, which I think has been good for me. I’m continuing those things this year.”
Lambie is in his first Super Rugby season as the first-choice Sharks flyhalf following the departure of Frederic Michalak and is relishing the opportunity. “I’m really enjoying playing flyhalf,” he said.
“I love being in the game, getting my hands on the ball and having to make decisions. I did get time at 15 at the end of the game against the Cheetahs and enjoyed the space, which was a different challenge. But it’s been nice to focus on one position, I’m really wanting to make that position mine.”
The youngster is too composed to get ahead of himself, but he has an eye on his opposition flyhalves. “It’s a really good challenge, we’re blessed in SA to have great flyhalves at every union,” Lambie said.
“I’m looking to do my bit for the Sharks and hopefully it will be a success.”
He has not forgotten the lessons learnt in last year’s Currie Cup final at the hands of Western Province when Demetri Catrakilis was at 10.
“Their tactical kicking in the final was really good, they took their points when on offer and that’s what we will have to do this weekend: we will have to take our opportunities and convert pressure and field position into points.”
This weekend, however, he faces either Jantjies or Peter Grant, who has returned from Japan. - The Mercury