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Auckland - The Springboks are excited to play at the closed Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, says Patrick Lambie, but they are wary of how the All Blacks will be able to utilise the dry conditions to their advantage on Saturday.
It will surely still be quite cold inside the stadium, but no rain or wind, which marred New Zealand’s 21-5 victory over Argentina in Wellington at the weekend, spells danger for the Boks. South Africa have struggled to make an impact in broken play this year, and it is something that is worrying coach Heyneke Meyer.
He said after the Wallaby Test in Perth that, when Australia had kicked the ball downfield, “we had chances to counter-attack and I don’t think we did that too well”.
Lambie confirmed yesterday that the issue had been addressed in the review of the match this week.
“It definitely was. Maybe the mindset has been we will kick on to Australia, so the whole team maybe wasn’t working hard enough to get back and provide opportunities to counter-attack. It was something that was mentioned in our review on Monday, and I’m sure that we will address it in training,” the Sharks star said.
Lambie added that the All Blacks are difficult to defend against as they love to attack from the back, so the Boks cannot afford to slip tackles like they did in the second half in Perth. First Willem Alberts missed Scott Higginbotham close to the line for the first Wallaby try, and then Juandré Kruger failed to stop a charging Ben Alexander for the second touchdown.
“Obviously with the game-breakers that New Zealand have, our defence has to be spot-on. Their counter-attack and broken-field play, from unstructured situations, that is when New Zealand can be at their most dangerous,” Lambie added.
“We will have to make sure that we are very disciplined, our kicking game is spot-on, and that when we have the ball, we hold on to it. Israel Dagg has scored some brilliant tries in the Championship so far. It seems like he is in good form and he is enjoying himself. We will have to keep an eye on him and make sure that he doesn’t get too much space to do his thing.”
Lambie is likely to come on at fullback later in the game, and while he could face Dagg in a one-on-one situation in the last line of defence, the 21-year-old is still yearning for the No 10 jersey.
His quest hasn’t been helped by his Super Rugby franchise this year, as Sharks coach John Plumtree kept faith with Frenchman Frederic Michalak for most of the season and used Lambie mainly at fullback.
But while the youngster was out with an ankle injury as well, he is hoping to get another opportunity against the All Blacks. “I had an ankle injury and had 10 minutes of rugby in the last six weeks. And before that, 80 minutes in the last 10 weeks. So, I’m feeling fresh! I’m raring to go,” Lambie said.
“Look, I just want to be in the starting line-up, so whether that’s at fullback or flyhalf, I don’t mind at the moment. Obviously, it would’ve been really nice to have gotten game time at flyhalf against Argentina. But in saying that, if I get time at fullback this weekend, that would be great too, and I will be giving it my best.”
This will be the first time that the Boks face the All Blacks under a closed roof and Lambie can’t wait to get out on to the fast pitch. “I’m looking forward to going to the new stadium, as I haven’t been there before. Hopefully we bring along the good things that we did on Saturday, and come up with an 80-minute performance,” he said.
“We don’t have to worry about the conditions, like it was in Wellington at the weekend. A lot of the guys are excited to play there as they haven’t before.
“Apparently, there’s a really good atmosphere, so we are looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Western Province tighthead prop Frans Malherbe travelled to New Zealand yesterday to join the Bok squad as cover for the injured Jannie du Plessis (hamstring) and Pat Cilliers (elbow), who both remain in doubt for the Dunedin Test.
Both players skipped training in Auckland yesterday.
With Eben Etzebeth suspended for two weeks for his incident with Nathan Sharpe, Flip van der Merwe is set to come in at lock.