Wrong to start with Lambie?
‘Scapegoat’ Pollard’s power an asset and he needs UK playing experience
SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has missed a trick in preparing for next year’s World Cup by sticking with Patrick Lambie at flyhalf for Saturday’s Test against Wales instead of picking Handré Pollard.
Lambie made his Test debut against Ireland in 2010 as a 20-year-old and has started several Tests on end-of-year tours since then, so he is well-versed with conditions he will face in next year’s World Cup in England.
And he started in the last two games against Italy and England, so Saturday’s clash at the Millennium Stadium would’ve been an ideal opportunity for Meyer to have another look at Pollard, who wore the No 10 jersey against Ireland in the opening Test of the tour.
It appears as if Pollard has been made the scapegoat for the 29-15 defeat in Dublin, as Meyer praised Lambie for his kicking and game management in the victories over England and Italy. But Pollard was one of the few Boks to shine against Ireland, as he ran hard at the advantage line and was strong in the tackle and won good territory with the boot.
The Boks were camped inside the Irish 22 for most of the game – they won 62 percent territory and 57 percent possession – yet Meyer said that they should’ve “kicked more”.
But whatever may or may not have happened against Ireland, Pollard needed to start another Test in northern hemisphere conditions. While Lambie, who has 39 caps, did reasonably well against England and Italy with his goal-kicking and little chips over the top, he arguably lacks that attacking brilliance that Pollard possesses and which needs to be developed taking into account next year’s World Cup.
In addition, Pollard’s size and prowess on defence would have been valuable in the Boks’ bid to stop the big Welsh backs such as inside centre Jamie Roberts, who will be sure to target Lambie’s channel, from gaining momentum on attack.
Asked yesterday if he was tempted to start with Pollard, Meyer said: “Yes, I was. But Patty was injured after being the in-form player of last year’s end-of-year tour. Handré is a brilliant youngster, especially on dry fields and attackingwise. We know what he can do, but I felt I wanted to keep some sort of continuity, which has been difficult to do in these four games.
“We just felt that Patrick is playing some great rugby, and Pollard is dangerous, as you could see when he comes on from the bench. So, I haven’t lost faith in him. I always had a plan with him and he will definitely get a start next year as well.”
But that start won’t be in the northern hemisphere, as the Boks will only play in the Rugby Championship before the World Cup.
Meyer has been forced to pick two new wings, with Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo coming in for the unavailable JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, while he added that he did consider giving starts to Nizaam Carr and Damian de Allende at No 8 and centre, but felt he needed the experience of Duane Vermeulen and Jan Serfontein against a strong Welsh side who nearly toppled the Springboks in Nelspruit in June.
MEYER’S MAN FOR THE JOB: The Springbok coach believes Patrick Lambie (pictured) is the right player to wear the No10 jersey for Saturday’s Test against Wales in Cardiff.