Lambie looks set for the long haul
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer faces a tough decision as he considers his options for the second match of the end-of-year tour against Scotland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Meyer said before the trip that he would be using it to make up his mind about some positions, most notably flyhalf, where he has used four different players this year.
He wants to stick with just two pivots when he goes into 2013, and he left little doubt before the squad’s departure that with Johan Goosen back home injured, it was going to be a bit of a high-noon shoot-out between Lambie, Elton Jantjies and Morne Steyn to win his trust as a No 10.
Lambie got his chance this past week in Dublin, and the question now centres on whether Meyer sticks with the Sharks player and thus enables him to build confidence and grow into the position, or whether in the interests of fairness he gives Jantjies a go in the starting team.
The Lions player did make an appearance against the All Blacks at Nasrec recently, but that was as a reserve.
And as was the case with Lambie in the first half at Aviva Stadium, Jantjies could probably claim he never got an equal chance in the sense that by the time he came on the momentum and impetus of what up to then had been a strong forward performance, had been lost.
Notwithstanding the negative result on the last trip to Murrayfield in 2010, if you are going to experiment on a November tour, Edinburgh is the place to do it.
But then by most reckonings Lambie probably did enough in sometimes trying circumstances at Aviva Stadium to mark himself as a player to be stuck with, and Meyer can probably do both himself and South Africa a huge favour if he just trusts his instinct by letting Lambie continue with what was started in Dublin.
COMPOSURE AND UNFLAPPABILITY
Although by his own admission some of "the kicking off the tee" could be improved, Lambie showed the same composure and unflappability under pressure that has made him such a strong player for the Sharks.
His decision-making was excellent, his distribution good and he helped change the pace of the game after halftime.
Yet it wasn't always plain sailing, and his coach admitted that at the break there wasn't yet a tick next to his performance.
“I wasn’t happy with Patrick’s game management in the first half, but then you couldn’t really expect him to take control of the match when he had no ball to play with,” said Meyer in a reference to the fact that most of the first 40 minutes were played in the South African half of the field.
“In the second half it was different, our forwards stepped up magnificently and we started getting ball, and Patrick responded really well. I was very pleased with his performance in the second half.”
For his part, Lambie finished his second full game for the Boks as a flyhalf feeling confident that it was a performance he can build on if he gets the opportunity.
“Whether or not I start again next week is something you will have to ask Heyneke but I do hope I get another chance as I will get better now that I have had this first opportunity,” said Lambie.
“I would like the chance to build on this performance and settle into the role. It is through playing that you develop and build confidence and after a tough start I feel quite happy with the way it went.”
Lambie said the first half had been frustrating, and he agreed with Meyer that it was a tough ask for a flyhalf to be expected to control a game in such circumstances.
“I did want to stamp some authority on the game so it was frustrating the way it went before halftime. We struggled to get our hands on the ball and when we did it was either turned over or we were penalised.
"At halftime we spoke about it and we went out after the break with a positive mindset. We just wanted to get our hands on the ball and make things happen, and it worked.
“The second half was a lot better. I felt I defended nicely when I had to and also made the right decisions when I got the ball. I was also able to set up quite a bit of play near the gainline, which was good.”
Perhaps the best bit of news for Lambie fans though is that Meyer appears to be backing him, and the player has felt the faith shown in him and responded to it.
“Heyneke has been very good with me this past week. He has made it very clear to me that he is backing me and he has been extremely supportive. It’s reassuring when you know the coach backs you and has faith in you.
"Hopefully he will just give me enough time in the position to vindicate that faith he has in me.”
It was a tough day for Lambie and his teammates, as they had woken up in Dublin to the news that popular frontranker Beast Mtawarira had been taken to hospital with heart palpitations. Lambie paid tribute to the players who stepped in.
“It’s obviously not good for the guys when they wake up to hear a teammate is sick, but hats off to the replacements. I thought both front-rows were excellent, and someone like Heinke van der Merwe had only been brought into the team a couple of days before the game. He had to learn all the calls still and yet he was part of a scrum that forced a crucial penalty,” said the Sharks flyhalf.
Lambie agreed that the rolling mauls off the lineouts played a massive part in the second-half turn-around and that it was a tactical shift decided on at halftime that inspired it.
“We tried to play a bit in the first half so instead of trying to get the second drive going we played the ball away from the lineouts. At halftime we decided that we should drive the lineouts more in the second half and it was a tactic that paid off for us. It was great to win coming from behind like that.”