'Lambie must stick to flyhalf'
When Patrick Lambie runs out onto Twickenham on Saturday it will be only the sixth consecutive game he has played in the No 10 since being moved back to flyhalf by the Sharks, but it is the position he should specialise in moving forward.
That is the view of Springbok kicking coach Louis Koen, himself a former Bok flyhalf, who was speaking on Tuesday as the build-up continues to the final test match of the year against England at Twickenham.
For some the jury is still out on whether Lambie is deserving of the hype surrounding him, but Koen says he has mightily impressed with what Lambie has contributed so far.
“I can’t emphasise enough how much Lambie has impressed us so far on this tour and I believe he is a superb allround flyhalf,” said Koen.
“There are a few tactical things we wanted him to work on, and that is still a work in progress, but he has made massive strides. He is definitely not just a player who can run the ball wide and play an attacking game, he can definitely control it with his boot.
"He has excellent kicking skills, his distribution and decision-making is good, and I think defence coach John McFarland would agree with me that Pat also contributes hugely on defence.”
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The Sharks do plan to play Lambie at flyhalf in next year’s Super Rugby, and he actually played more at No 10 this year than people realise.
He just had an injury-plagued season, and when he was over his injuries Frenchman Frederic Michalak had settled at pivot for the Sharks, which was why Lambie was moved to fullback for the closing stages of Super Rugby.
However, just in case they have second thoughts, Koen is adamant that flyhalf is where Lambie should play.
“I see him as a flyhalf, not as a fullback. I cannot talk for the Sharks or make decisions for them, but I would really like to see Lambie specialising at flyhalf and not playing anywhere else. I think that flyhalf is his position and I would like to see him develop there,” said the Bok kicking coach.
“He has done really well on this tour if you consider that he only started playing flyhalf again towards the end of the Currie Cup. That is why there are still areas that require work. There are position-specific things that he needs to work on as a flyhalf, but already on this tour we have seen him make great strides.
“I know he played a lot of rugby at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level as a flyhalf, but international rugby is different. The ball comes back from the loose scrums a lot slower than it does at Super Rugby level. That means there is less time to make decisions, and there is less space. That is something that he is getting used to.”
Koen feels the match against Scotland saw the Boks deliver their finest out-of-hand kicking performance of the year so far.
“In that first half we kicked 14 times and 12 of the kicks had successful outcomes. That is the best stat of the year so far. Of course in the second half it went the other way, and we had only two successful kicks in 10.
"I believe that the guys are now starting to understand better when we should kick and when we should play the ball. There is much greater accuracy in that regard.”