RYAN VREDE, in Dublin, reports Pat Lambie wants to challenge the perception that he is primarily a running flyhalf who will be asked to venture out of his comfort zone tactically with the Springboks.
That perception still lingers, even though those who’ve watched Lambie closely in Super Rugby and more recently in three Currie Cup games will attest to a significantly more rounded player tactically.
Certainly his strength lies in attacking (and often breaching) the gainline or setting his outside backs away, but Lambie’s game management has soared to new heights, and he has now established himself as a flyhalf equally adept at playing for field position as he is with ball in hand.
The 22-year-old rarely gives insight into his true feelings on, well, anything. He is expertly drilled in the science of saying a lot without actually saying anything, but the frustration at this ongoing perception around his tactical capacity was obvious.
‘Some people are under the wrong impression about the way I want to play,’ he began. ‘I don’t just want to run everything, I’ll play to space and if that space is behind [the defensive line] I’ll kick it. The coach has spoken to me and made it clear what he expects [tactically], so hopefully I can meet those expectations.
‘My tactical game is something I’ve been working on. In the Springboks’ squad there’s a lot of focus on tactical kicking and I’ve learned a lot this year in terms of tactical awareness – when to ‘play’ and when to kick. I definitely feel like I’ve grown as a player.’
Lambie will also be tasked with the goal-kicking responsibilities. He kicked superbly in the Currie Cup semi-final and final, banking 11 of 13 attempts, which bodes well for the Springboks in a facet of their play that has contributed significantly to their struggles this year. Indeed it was terminal against the All Blacks in Dunedin, where a victory would have had invaluable spin-offs confidence-wise and kept them in contention for the title.
The Springboks have used six different goal-kickers to date, and Lambie hopes he can ease the concerns around this area of their play. ‘I’ve struck the ball alright in those three games I played for the Sharks and I’m feeling comfortable about it. Hopefully it goes alright on Saturday,’ he said.
Meyer initially saw Lambie mostly as a fullback, but has been swayed by his form while steering the Sharks’ ship in the No 10 shirt. Lambie, however, was non-committal when asked where he saw his Test future unfolding.
‘I’m going to give it my best at flyhalf this weekend and I want to play well enough to make the position my own. If that’s not at flyhalf it can be at fullback as well. At the moment I don’t want to throw all my eggs in one basket. I’ll take what comes,’ he said.