IN AN attempt to lower rising blood pressures, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee raised a few eyebrows by picking Patrick Lambie at fullback for the clash against the Wallabies at Loftus on Saturday.
Lambie has played less than 40 minutes of rugby — for the Sharks against the EP Kings — since suffering concussion in the first Test against Ireland in June. The coach is satisfied that he has fully recovered from the sickening blow.
Coetzee surprised many who thought he would return at flyhalf naming Lambie at fullback, where he has featured for both union and country. Lambie’s preferred position is at pivot but Johan Goosen’s suspect performances under the high ball forced Coetzee’s hand.
Willie le Roux, who was recalled for the remaining two Rugby Championship matches, was not convincing against Ireland but earned a place on the bench.
Lambie’s return to fullback has opened an old wound. Few players have flip-flopped between positions in their Springbok careers more than the Sharks captain.
“Lambie comes into 15 with a lot of experience,” said Coetzee. ” He is not injured anymore and he’s played for the Sharks. He has been oozing confidence at training and is ready to play.
“He comes into the team with leadership and the know-how and the understanding of what we want to achieve this week. Therefore his inclusion is not a gamble at all.
“I’m not concerned he hasn’t played there much in the past few years; not with 51 Tests under his belt. The big thing about backline play is communication and Pat brings communication with the wingers and sound organisation. We’ve not been good at high balls but he’s good in the air.”
As expected after the big defeat to the All Blacks in Christchurch a couple of weeks ago, the half-back pair of Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk paid the price for their lack of game control and composure.
Bulls scrumhalf Rudy Paige and former Bull Morné Steyn will start. Their familiarity with Loftus, Coetzee said, earned them the nod.
“Steyn and Paige are a pair that fit and suit the way we want to play this weekend,” he said.
“They are very familiar with the Loftus conditions and they’ve been working hard in the system. I don’t think they’ve played a lot together as a combination, if at all, but f or me it’s about the plan we have.
“The biggest thing, which is a mark of championship teams, is that we haven’t dominated the territory battle. If you don’t dominate territory you won’t get set-pieces in the opposition half and you won’t be able to then put scoreboard pressure. But I don’t want players to interpret that message as if we just want to kick and chase.
“We’ve attacked impressively from lineouts and I’d like us to get lineouts closer in scoring areas.”