RYAN VREDE, in London, reports Heyneke Meyer has given Pat Lambie the directive to stand flatter and attack more with ball in hand in a bid to get the best out of him.
There were widespread cries of relief when Lambie was installed at pivot ahead of Morne Steyn for the first Test of the tour against Ireland and then given the backing of his coach through three Tests. However, it was also lamented that Lambie would have to temper his natural attacking instincts to suit the Springboks’ pragmatic method.
Lambie attempted to play that down prior to the Lansdowne Road Test, saying that there was a flawed perception of him as a running flyhalf, arguing that his game was more rounded than that. However, on the evidence of what he has produced tactically in the last fortnight, his kicking game is certainly more work in progress than it is finished article.
Lambie has proven to be potent when taking on the defensive line himself or creating opportunities for his outside backs and this is what Meyer hopes to see more of against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
‘It’s a huge ask, there’s this perception that when you put a young player like Pat in he is immediately going to be a world beater. That doesn’t happen at this level. The defences are too well organised,’ he said.
‘But I’ve had a long one on one with him and told him to play his natural game. He has always been a guy that takes on the line and plays really flat. He played too deep in Dublin and Edinburgh. I’ve said to him I want more on attack, I want him to get the backline going. Its a test for Pat going forward, but I really need a good performance from him on Saturday.’
Meyer’s instructions to Lambie and the inclusion of Elton Janjties ahead of Morne Steyn on the bench suggests the Springboks will seek to keep the ball in hand far more than they have for most of this season. Certainly privately the coaching staff feeling there are a couple of defensive vulnerabilities in the England backline, particularly at flyhalf, where Toby Flood has been exposed against elite opposition.
With the forecast for cold but clear conditions at kick-off, the Springboks will be assisted in their cause to ‘play’ more. However, it would be wrong to expect an expansive and open approach from the tourists, who will still be very cautious in their territory, taking minimal risks but then looking to be more adventurous deeper in England’s half.
It is of course a tactical path that has worked well for them at the venue in recent history, with 2008′s 42-6 win achieved in this manner. Peter de Villiers picked an abrasive pack that day and they gave a mediocre backline an excellent platform from which to test their hosts. This mirrors the situation the Springboks find themselves in at present, with a highly cohesive and powerful pack attempting to service a backline that has yet to inspire.
Perhaps it will come on Saturday, with Lambie tasked with playing a central role in any such demolition.