The impending year-end tour of Europe will provide Pat Lambie with what may be a first and final opportunity to prove his worth as a Test flyhalf to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Pat will definitely be a contender there and I think he can be a great flyhalf,” Meyer told reporters in Cape Town yesterday, where the Boks have assembled to begin preparing for successive tour matches against Ireland, Scotland and England.
“But, having said that, after this year I’m going to stick with two No 10s going forward to the 2015 World Cup.”
In his first season at the helm of the Boks, Meyer has pigeon-holed the Sharks playmaker as a fullback. However, Lambie’s flourishing form in the latter stages of the Currie Cup appears to have inclined the coach to give the 22-year-old a shot at making the Bok No 10 jersey his own.
“I’ve always been open and honest with Pat, and I said ‘if you want to be the (World Cup) flyhalf in England in four years, you have to be able to kick tactically’,” added Meyer.
“If you look at the Currie Cup final, I know it’s a lesser level, but people always say pick an attacking flyhalf, but the team that defends best and has a tactical flyhalf usually wins. So you need a tactical No 10.
“I told Pat he needs to work on his kicking game and he has worked hard and he’s shown improvement. He’ll definitely be considered there.”
With flyhalf wunderkind Johan Goosen out injured, Lambie will be vying for such consideration along with veteran Morne Steyn and rookie Elton Jantjies.
Meyer gave few hints regarding a possible line-up for the tour opener in Dublin on November 10, but whoever gets the nod to direct the Bok attack will likely be able to draw on the experience of Jean de Villiers.
The Bok captain missed the Currie Cup play-offs with a nagging hamstring injury, but he is on track to square up against Ireland.
“Jean has done really nicely,” said Bok team doctor Craig Roberts. “We’re happy with his progress and the feedback is that he’s doing really well at the moment.”
Bath flanker Francois Louw was another injury concern allayed by Roberts.
“I spoke to Francois earlier in the week. He had a problem with his neck, but it’s responded really well to treatment and we’re confident he’ll be ready for us when we meet up with him over there,” he said.
Hooker Adriaan Strauss (knee) was also given a provisional thumbs-up with a “he’s fine, we’ll assess how he goes at training today”, though Meyer’s allusion to a match-day 22 inclusion for Saracens rake Schalk Brits casts a shadow of doubt over this prognosis.
Toulouse prop Gurthrö Steenkamp rounds off a group of three players in the 31-man squad who ply their trade abroad, and Meyer underscored the value they would add to a Bok team decimated by injuries.
“In the beginning, I was tentative to use overseas-based players, but I’ve seen what a huge influence Francois Louw had (during the Rugby Championship),” Meyer said. “He’s probably one of the best opensiders in the world right now.”
Steenkamp has 38 Test caps to his name and last did duty for South Africa in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal loss against Australia, while twice-capped Brits hasn’t played for the Boks since 2008.
“Schalk is a great impact player and very experienced now that he’s 30 years old, and I’ve worked with Gurthrö (at the Bulls) before, so I know what he can do, if he’s fit.
“You need big scrummagers in Europe because, there, every single scrum is a battle and they scrum for penalties, so if you don’t have a big front row you’ll struggle.” – Cape Argus