LAMBIE: to the Boks rescue
ANEW halfback pairing is on the cards when the Springboks run out against Australia at Loftus Versfeld next weekend.
Not only is Pat Lambie – now over the concussion issues that kept him sidelined for three months – set to start at flyhalf against the Wallabies, but the Boks could also have a new No 9, or rather a former one.
Francois Hougaard, who played on the left wing in the last two Tests, could return to his more favoured and familiar role of scrumhalf for the home Rugby Championship Tests against Australia and New Zealand.
Bok boss Allister Coetzee is believed to be keen to change his misfiring halfback pairing of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies, both of whom have failed to replicate their Super Rugby form on the Test stage.
It is understood that Hougaard’s better kicking game and Lambie’s general allround ability, including his more bankable goal-kicking rate, will see the duo at nine and 10 in Pretoria.
Hougaard was one of the few Boks who looked like a Test player in Christchurch at the weekend, while Lambie returned to the Sharks team in their Currie Cup match against the Kings.
There is a feeling in the Bok camp that a more experienced, more tactically astute halfback pairing will make all the difference to the under-performing Bok side.
Of course, there’s also a chance that Rudy Paige could be preferred to De Klerk, but counting against him is the fact that he hasn’t played much rugby lately, and also doesn’t have much Test match experience. It is believed the Bok management are fairly satisfied with the contribution of the pack, that the set pieces are functioning well and the front eight are developing nicely.
But they feel that the majority of the problems are at the back, starting at nine and 10. However, Coetzee’s decision to change his midfield pairing in Australasia, from Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe to Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel, has made no significant difference to the performance of the backs. This area is also viewed as a major issue right now.
It would thus come as no surprise if the Boks have a new-look centre combination for the Wallabies match, with perhaps De Jongh and Mapoe teaming up this time or De Allende and Kriel. There is also an outside chance that Lions star Rohan Janse van Rensburg gets a look-in in an effort to give the Boks a more direct option at 12, a player who can carry the ball strongly over the gain-line.
Fit-again Lions prop Julian Redelinghuys will also return to the starting team next weekend, while Coetzee is believed to be considering giving Jaco Kriel a start at openside flank in place of Francois Louw.
Coetzee, under pressure to at least win the home matches against Australia and New Zealand in the next few weeks, will name his squad for those games in the coming days.