If Pat Lambie can convince Allister Coetzee he can go for 60 minutes, then he will start at No 10 for the Springboks against Australia next Saturday.
That’ll be the significant change to the Bok starting line-up from the side that lost to the All Blacks last Saturday, but there could be more changes in the backline.
Lambie was expectedly included in the 31-man Springbok squad on Wednesday for the home Rugby Championship matches against Australia at Loftus next Saturday and New Zealand in Durban the following week.
Also back in the mix is utility back Willie le Roux and fit-again forwards Lood de Jager and Julian Redelinghuys.
The Sharks No 10 only returned to action last weekend after spending three months on the sidelines with concussion-related problems, but Coetzee is keen to get him in his starting line-up following the less-than-satisfactory performances of Elton Jantjies in the No 10 jersey in recent weeks.
Coetzee stated yesterday that Lambie has been included in the squad so that the Boks’ medical and conditioning team can get ‘first-hand feedback’ on the flyhalf’s fitness levels.
“We want to ascertain his readiness and confidence for international rugby or whether he rather needs to play another match in the Currie Cup,” said Coetzee.
If Lambie comes through the assessment, he will start at 10 next Saturday. If he doesn’t satisfy Coetzee he’s ready for Test match rugby, then Johan Goosen could be preferred at flyhalf in place of Jantjies.
That would open the door for Le Roux to return at fullback after last playing for the Boks in June. He dropped out of the squad for the Rugby Championship and has been turning out for his Japanese club, Canon Eagles. But even if Goosen remains in the last line of defence there is set to be a starting role for Le Roux, possibly on the right wing, with Francois Hougaard shifting to scrumhalf.
What is almost certain though is Faf de Klerk and Jantjies will not start in Pretoria; it’s just a matter of who between Lambie and Goosen wear the No 10.
The only player who toured to Australasia recently but misses out on a place in the squad now is prop Lourens Adriaanse, who is replaced by the fit-again Redelinghuys, who is almost sure to start at Loftus Versfeld.
While a disappointed Coetzee promised to wield the axe after the Boks’ hammering by the All Blacks last weekend, he has stuck largely to the same group of players he’s backed all season. It is understandable, considering so many potential first choice players, like Frans Malherbe, Marcel Coetzee, Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein, are still injured and the fact is there are not that many Test quality players doing the rounds in the Currie Cup.
“We have much work to do as a team and the best way to build confidence is to keep continuity and improve on the individual errors and our game management that have so far hampered us,” said Coetzee.
“The two remaining matches will be huge for us and the squad will work hard during the next two weeks to make sure we are well prepared to face the Wallabies and All Blacks.”
The Boks get together again on Sunday to start their preparations for the home Tests.
Backs: Johan Goosen, Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Francois Hougaard, Lionel Mapoe, Jesse Kriel, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Morne Steyn, Elton Jantjies, Pat Lambie, Faf de Klerk, Rudy Paige
Forwards: Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mohoje, Jaco Kriel, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Julian Redelinghuys, Vincent Koch, Beast Mtawarira, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Adriaan Strauss (capt)