Lambie is our first-choice 10 – Plumtree
The selection of Patrick Lambie at flyhalf for the Sharks team to play against Griquas on Friday should give Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer an interesting extra No 10 option for the end-of-year tour.
However, Sharks coach John Plumtree has stressed that while Lambie hasn’t played at pivot for his team for a while, there is not really anything new about the selection.
Indeed, Lambie has been the first-choice flyhalf for the Sharks all year, and was only moved to fullback after he had been out with injury.
“People have short memories and I suppose with so much rugby being played its understandable, but Pat was actually our first-choice flyhalf for the first half of Super Rugby,” said Plumtree.
“We started off with Pat at flyhalf and you will recall that at the time Frederic Michalak either played off the bench or at scrumhalf.
"It was only after Pat got injured that we moved Freddie into No 10. Once Freddie started playing well it was difficult to change, but even then, Pat was out most of the time with injury.
“He broke his jaw then had a few other injuries that kept him off the playing field. The last game he played for us was at No 15, and that was the Super Rugby final. But he had been out for a while and Freddie had been playing well so we couldn’t really choose him at flyhalf for that game.”
With Lambie playing flyhalf again, Meyer now has three choices at No 10, now that Johan Goosen has been ruled out for the rest of the season with injury: Elton Jantjies, Morne Steyn and Lambie.
The latter was Steyn’s understudy on the 2010 overseas tour and had it not been for the unexpected loss to Scotland, the then coach Peter de Villiers may well have selected Lambie at flyhalf for the test against England at Twickenham.
Instead, because of the defeat, the Boks were forced into a backs-to-the-wall reactive mindset and the conservative option, with Steyn boasting more experience, was favoured.
It was understood that the reason Meyer never considered Lambie as a flyhalf was because he hadn’t played there for the Sharks this year, so this is the Natalian’s chance to show that he is also an option at No 10.
It was as a flyhalf for the Sharks in the 2010 Currie Cup season that Lambie made his first really big statement at first-class level in South Africa, and his match-winning performance against Western Province in the Durban final marked him as a player of great potential.
However, he wasn’t at his best in the 2011 Super Rugby season when he played flyhalf and his best game was probably the one he played from fullback when Michalak took up pivot in the decisive final league game against the Bulls at Loftus which the Sharks unexpectedly won to leapfrog the Pretoria team into the play-offs.
Unlike WP coach Allister Coetzee, Plumtree is phasing his Boks back into Currie Cup action, and has not selected a raft of first-choice Boks for this week’s final league game against Griquas.
There again, the Sharks and the Lions are the only teams not facing the prospect of a possible relegation battle, so perhaps that is understandable.
Aside from Lambie, no other member of the current Bok 22 was into the starting team.
Jannie du Plessis and Marcell Coetzee were chosen on the bench while first-choice Bok wing JP Pietersen, in such fine form before injury cut his season short, will continue his comeback in the No 11 jersey.
Lwazi Mvovo and Craig Burden, two players in the wider Bok group of 30, will also play off the bench at Mr Price Kings Park.
While it is probably true that the Sharks can afford to be a bit under-strength at home to Griquas and thus rest the star players for the play-offs, it might also be that Plumtree has learned his lesson from last year, when the Sharks selected their Boks for the Currie Cup final but then lost to a Lions team that benefited from greater continuity in selection.
THE SHARKS: Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Tim Whitehead, JP Pietersen, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Keegan Daniel (captain), Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Jandre Marais, Wiehahn Herbst, Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: Craig Burden, Jannie du Plessis, Peet Marais, Marcell Coetzee, Charl McLeod, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo.