It was September 2012 in a chilly Auckland when Pat Lambie proved once again – although he didn’t actually need to prove anything – that underneath that baby face and gentlemanly manners lay a resolute Springbok who felt hard done by.
And he wasn’t afraid to say it.
“I’m desperate for some game time. I’ve been training hard, as hard, if not harder than the guys who are starting, to get into the starting XV. I’m hoping to get some more game time and to make the most of my opportunity,” Lambie told the South African media contingent ahead of the All Black Test in Dunedin.
I could hardly believe my ears while holding the recorder and listening to Lambie speak in that Crowne Plaza Auckland hotel.
Here was a modern-day player actually saying how he feels – he had been on the bench for two Argentina Tests, and came off the bench against the Wallabies as Zane Kirchner wore the No 15 jersey in Heyneke Meyer’s first year in charge of the Boks.
By the way, Morné Steyn and Johan Goosen were fighting out at flyhalf...
The honest talk from Lambie didn’t result in a promotion, as he had to be satisfied with five minutes at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, with the Boks going down 21-11 in a tight contest that they could’ve won.
The cool head Lambie had on his shoulders shone through again, though – before the All Black Test. On the first morning in Dunedin, I made my way to breakfast. With all the ground-floor tables full, I ventured upstairs, where some of the Boks were still eating.
I remember greeting Lambie, who responded with his usual smile, as I sat down. Once I was on my way out, a team official quietly told me that the room was actually the Springbok dining hall, and that I should avoid it in future!
Lambie had just been too much of a nice guy to tell me to get out of there.
While many Bok fans will recall his stupendous penalty from inside his own half to clinch victory over the All Blacks in 2014, one of his other career highlights was masterminding the Sharks’ 2010 Currie Cup final win over Western Province in Durban.
The 20-year-old Lambie scored 25 points in the 30-10 victory, but even before that, he had made an impression for the SA Under-20 team and in Super Rugby.
I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the rugby journey I’ve had. There are so many people who have made it possible, and so many who have shown love and support. Thank you to you all! On to new adventures...— Patrick Lambie (@PatLambie) January 19, 2019
Having been chosen as the Currie Cup Player of the Month for July, Lambie had flown to Cape Town to receive the award at WP’s Bellville training headquarters, as Allister Coetzee was the Coach of the Month.
As Coetzee showed the Sharks star around the place, I asked the coach: “Have you got the WP contract ready for Pat!” Lambie just took it in his stride and laughed, instead of getting nervous.
That’s the same temperament that he has shown throughout his rugby career – on and off the field.
So, for him to be forced to retire from the game due to concussion problems is a tremendous loss to South African rugby, as he still had so much more to offer at the age of 28.
Go well, Patrick Lambie, and who knows, maybe you can haul out that cricket bat again (he captained KZN Schools)!
* Ashfak Mohamed is the Digital Sports Editor at Independent Media.@ashfakmohamed