Joel Stransky believes that Butch James, not Morné Steyn, should be the Springboks’ first-choice flyhalf at the Rugby World Cup. And he thinks that Patrick Lambie can be considered as the starting fullback instead of at No10.
The Springbok 1995 World Cup hero believes that James is able to better vary his play, while his strong defensive ability is another plus point.
James arrived in Cape Town on Tuesday along with 48 other players for this week’s Springbok assessment camp.
“I’m not sure right now that the Boks have an idea of who that starting flyhalf is going to be. To be fair, the way he has played, it should probably be Butch,” Stransky said.
“I assume that that is the thinking, and they would probably leave him at home for the Tri-Nations tour coming up (the first Test is against Australia in Sydney on July 23).
“I, right now, would go for Butch. His ability to make decisions, to play closer to the gainline, defending that channel. All of that, plus his experience, means for me that he would be the flyhalf. Butch’s kicking game has improved dramatically since the last World Cup, and even in that tournament, he kicked out of hand really well. He looks comfortable as a goal-kicker too, and looks natural. With his experience, they won’t look past him.
“There is only one thing – whether he will stay on the field. It’s those hot-headed tackles every now and then, and he has had three or four knee reconstructions. His longevity might be an issue.”
Stransky adds that if Lions pivot James is the No1 flyhalf, the Bulls’ Steyn and Sharks playmaker Lambie should get gametime on the Tri-Nations tour. “It will be difficult circumstances as some players won’t go on tour. We will see who puts their hand up and comes to the fore. Whether they play Morné or Pat, I think you have two great players there,” he said.
“The other side of Lambie is that they will probably want to look at him as a fullback in the Test arena. In the last few Super Rugby games, he looked very good indeed at fullback.”
Sharks coach John Plumtree also agrees that Lambie can be considered at No15, although he thinks that Steyn should be the Boks’ main flyhalf at the World Cup. “I don’t think Pat should start ahead of Morné, not from an experience factor. I mean, when you get into the World Cup, you are going to need your experience in key positions,” Plumtree said on Tuesday.
“Morné has got that, and it also depends on what style of play that the Springboks want to adopt. Morné suits the style of play that they want to play. Pat’s time will come.”
But both Stransky and Plumtree feel that the Boks need a good Tri-Nations campaign if they hope to do well at the World Cup. Some top Boks who have played a lot in Super Rugby may sit out the tour, so that could result in the team struggling against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Plumtree was adamant that the Boks should take almost a full-strength side on tour.
“I think it would be a mistake to take a ‘B’ team to New Zealand. It should be more a case of resting a few players,” he said.
“Going into the World Cup, it is crucial that they play well against Australia and New Zealand in the Tri-Nations because ultimately, if South Africa want to win the World Cup, they are going to have to beat New Zealand first and then probably Australia. So, it’s really important to get that momentum and build some confidence. They should take a very good side to New Zealand.”