Lambie enjoying Sharks ‘comeback’
DURBAN – When Patrick Lambie gets the urge to play rugby again – and he lives with this almost every day – he reminds himself of the year in which he woke up every morning to headaches and nagging anxiety.
And those desires to lace up the boots are never far away given that he has taken himself into the lions’ den, so to speak, by taking on a coaching role at the Sharks when he is still just 29 years of age.
Aah, what could have been for the supremely talented Lambie, who played 56 Tests for South Africa, including him winning a Test for the Springboks against the All Blacks at Ellis Park in 2014 with a majestically taken 55m penalty.
“I don’t think the desire to play will ever go away,” he says. “Yes, I am at peace with retirement but I would not be human if the feel of the ball in my hands doesn’t occasionally bring the urges back.
“But I know that it would be silly to risk contact again when the top neurologists in the world have stringently advised against it ... And I take myself back to a year of waking up with a pounding headache, tired and lethargic – it is like waking up with a heavy hangover, without the knowledge that you at least had a good time the night before!”
And it was the emphatic instruction from doctors to retire in 2018 after a head knock too many at Parisian club Racing 92 that had Lambie initially swearing off the game.
“I thought cold turkey from rugby was my best bet,” Lambie says. “Then on my return to Durban from Paris I bumped into (Sharks CFO) Ed Coetzee which, in turn, resulted in a chat with Sean Everitt and next thing I was back at the Sharks as a consultant, with a focus on mentoring the young backline players and coaching them on their kicking games.
“And I am so glad it happened because I am absolutely loving it, especially given that I had initial misgivings about getting back into rugby when at a similar age to most of the players.
“I am really enjoying it – the likes of Aphelele Fassi, Makazole Mapimpi, Sanele Nohamba and Curwin Bosch are lovely young guys that are willing to listen and receive input, and have the work ethic to put what they learn into practice first on the training field and then into the match situation.
“I have been trying to make my input relevant to what they need to do on the field – we fix their technique at training and then I reassure them they have the ability to make it happen in a match – and they make it happen.
“I think that what makes the difference is that these guys are all wonderful human beings as well as being exceptional players, and when you have a culture at a team where you have talented players that are humble and willing to place their needs second to those of the team, you have something very good going ”
Lambie adds that credit has to be given to Everitt and his coaching staff.
“They obviously put a lot in place in the pre-season to give the players the confidence to play the thrilling rugby they have been, and the fact they have done it consistently proves they are in a very positive environment.
“It is a very encouraging atmosphere to be a rugby player – the players are happy and smiling, their feet are on the ground and they are enjoying each others’ company. I am really chuffed to be part of something special when a few months back I had resolved to walk away from the game ”
And Lambie admits that those urges he is controlling are not made any easier by the cavalier rugby the Sharks are playing.
“I would have loved to have played in this Sharks backline,” he smiles. “It is a world class combination that is having fun while performing outstandingly They are a joy to watch, and they have a forward pack punching above its weight because they know they have a responsibility to give their backs quality ball.
“I can’t remember the Sharks ever topping the overall standings near the halfway mark of Super Rugby and the cool thing is that I know they can keep going if they get the chance.”