Johannesburg - “What I really like about him is he never panics... he’s very level-headed.” That’s what Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said of Pat Lambie following last year’s Springbok tour to Europe when the Boks won three out of three, beating Ireland, Scotland and England.
He added after the England game, where Lambie slotted three penalties and a conversion without missing a kick at goal: “He was brilliant in the wet conditions. He is not a natural flyhalf but he is great seeing space and playing players into it. His goal-kicking was very good on tour.”
Indeed, the Boks may not have played the sparkling rugby we saw this season, but they won all their matches and Lambie was one of the stars of the trip. It was the first time the Bok boss had backed the Sharks’ No 10, mainly because first choice Morne Steyn had not enjoyed a good 2012 season.
Meyer has probably changed his mind about Lambie “not being a natural flyhalf”, and following the Sharks man’s excellent tactical performance in last Saturday’s Currie Cup final, one’s got to wonder whether Lambie isn’t due another crack at the Bok No 10 shirt.
Steyn was good for the national team this year - his better goal-kicking strike rate certainly makes him a reliable option - but, overall, Lambie has shown he has more to offer in general play. He’s done it for the Sharks and he’s done it for the Boks when given the opportunity and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Meyer again turns to Lambie for next month’s tour to Europe.
The only thing standing in Lambie’s way is his not-so-deadly goal-kicking. He missed a good few kicks at goal at Newlands on Saturday and while it didn’t matter in the end, had the Sharks lost, Lambie would have been heavily criticised for missing a few “sitters”. So, if he can get his goal-kicking game up to scratch, he could very well be the best option at flyhalf.
His management of the game and his option-taking are excellent, and he’s always offered more than Steyn with ball in hand and the way he attacks the gain-line.
Meyer didn’t say it directly after last year’s November tour, but he intimated Lambie would start 2013 as the first choice No 10. That, of course, changed after Steyn’s good showing in Super Rugby, but it is now clear that when Lambie plays regularly, gets the game-time he requires, he is a match-winner as good as Steyn.
With less than two years to go until the 2015 World Cup, Meyer has some tough decisions to make, none more so than at No 10: there’s Steyn, Lambie, Johan Goosen, Elton Jantjies and Demetri Catrakilis to pick from; all of whom are good enough for Test rugby and offer something unique to the game.