Damned if you do…
Sometimes you just have to feel for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. No matter what decision he makes, there will always be the hordes shouting at him as they disagree with his decision.
As the Boks prepare to assemble on Wednesday for their tour to Ireland, Scotland and England, Meyer already will be feeling his decisions being scrutinised as he decides on who will line up in Dublin on November 10 for the opening match of the tour.
Inevitably the spotlight will once again be on the flyhalf role, the general to direct play and set the tone for the Springboks’ manner of playing on their first outing on tour.
It has become increasingly popular across the country to clamber for the elevation of young Patrick Lambie into the number 10 role for the tour, especially after he has shown some excellent performances in the Absa Currie Cup in the position, and has both the cool head and temperament to be a success in the position.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if Lambie is still the most popular choice, and any other decision that Heyneke Meyer would make, would make Sharks fans, and others across the country, cry out in derision at the mere thought of Lambie not being rewarded for his form.
But then again, even if Meyer does choose Lambie, he will face the wrath of a different group of supporters who have just as much of a right, if not more, to call for Elton Jantjies to take the starting spot ahead of Lambie.
Either way Meyer is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
It’s a catch-22 situation that is unlikely to please many, and would take the wisdom of Solomon to ensure both players progress rather than regress on a short, but incredibly important tour for the Boks.
After all, both camps are dead correct in their reasoning, and both have more than enough evidence to present to defend their views.
Lambie has been hard-done-by in test rugby this year, not getting as much game-time as his supporters would like him to. He has been given an opportunity, and has grabbed it with both hands, finding form and sending a message to the national selectors in the process.
But then again, consider Elton’s case. As the form flyhalf for the first part of the Currie Cup, he was also hard-done-by – he should have made his debut in Port Elizabeth but was left on the bench in an incredibly tight game that saw the Bok management faced with claims of bias.
Back in the Currie Cup, Jantjies came back with force, winning the Absa Currie Cup player of the month award and showing his skills as an attacking flyhalf, while being deadly accurate with the boot.
His debut finally came against Australia, where he performed well as a second-half substitute, and then the blowout against New Zealand where the Boks were played off the park in the second half by a rampant All Black side.
Those critics of Jantjies will point to his misses and general play in the Currie Cup semifinal, while the Jantjies fans will point to Lambie’s role as Western Province swept to the Currie Cup title on Saturday.
Both of them are right, and both are also wrong.
Both players deserve an opportunity, while in my opinion the coach has made a mistake by not leaving Morne Steyn behind to take some time off and focus on his game.
The best current scenario will see both players getting time to shine at 10 on the tour, being backed by the management and coming back better players.
But one will have to be chosen. Will it be Lambie, the recent form No 10, or Jantjies, the next man in line for the jersey?
Either way, Heyneke is damned if he does…
• A final note about the SA Rugby Player of the Year awards and my utter disbelief that Jannie du Plessis did not make the top five nominees for the position.
It is my firm belief that the top five players need to be those who performed in tournaments and at test level, at a consistent level that would make them walk into any World XV. In the current field of five nominees, it is tough not to see Eben Etzebeth walking away with the trophy.
But having said that, Du Plessis certainly deserved to be there, and would easily be in my top three players for the year.
For those who don’t agree, ask yourself this: where would the Sharks and Bok scrum be this year if not for the doctor at tighthead? He has been a rock and played his heart out and certainly deserved recognition.
It is now a moot point however, and Du Plessis will head on tour knowing that while he missed out on a top-five position, his play certainly didn’t go unrecognised.
To continue the conversation, follow Brenden on Twitter at @brendennel