Province was pretty lucky to exit their match with a win while the Sharks was clearly the better team against the Bulls. Some stereotype ref watchers are whinging as usual about the ref and to be honest he had a bit of a mediocre day but to be fair the ref was not the difference between the two teams (Bulls vs Sharks).
The difference in both matches for me was the flyhalfs. The TVL Lions played a high tempo game and I thought their forwards were better in the mauls and at the collisions than the Western Province forwards but Jantjies was unable to general the game. This is a game that Gerald Bosch would have won for TVL in years gone by. Bondesio is the playmaker in that team and much of Jantjies so-called success is a result of Bondesio creating front foot ball for his team with sniping little bursts around the rucks, scrums and mauls and with his ability to pick runners and shift the ball to the right players.
Bondesio was miles better than any other No 9 playing in the semi-finals on the weekend. The Sharks No 9 (Reinach) has potential but is far from the finished product and I will not pull him -at this stage- into the Springbok touring squad.
Where Jantjies was unable to pilot the game Lambie on the other hand was outstanding in his ability to navigate the Sharks to a win under high pressure circumstances. Lambie’s line kicks and place kicks were excellent but it is his ability to read the game that makes him such and valuable player at No10. While Lambie stood out in the match Morné Steyn was hardly noticeable during the entire match.
Lambie’s talents are wasted on No15.
He is the playmaker SA needs in the pivotal flyhalf berth. I like the way Lambie tackles low on the ankles in the flyhalf channel and he is a far better defender in that position than back at No15.
Lambie and Goosen should in my books be the flyhalfs for the end of year tour (that is if Goosen recovers in time. If not I’ll even consider Peter Grant). Here specifically is what I like about Lambie as a flyhalf:
- He is unpredictable and constantly varies what he is doing;
- He reads the game and have an intuitive feeling for where to be, what to do and where to position himself (deep or flat) behind his pack;
- He defends well in the inside channel;
- His tactical kicking is great and he uses the kick as an attacking weapon and not as an option because he doesn’t know what to do with the ball;
- He is fast of the mark –probably the fastest of all the SA flyhalfs- and plays direct rugby;
- He attack space and know how to put his outside backs into space; Frans Steyn is going to be a real factor on 12 if he plays next to Lambie;
- His line kicks are excellent and he maintains a high percentage success rate as a place kicker and more importantly he can kick under pressure;
- He has a compact built with a low center of gravity with fast feet and an intuitive feeling for space and time which not only makes him the ideal flyhalf but also less prone for injury; Goosen needs to be nursed and Lambie is a type of player who can take the brunt while Goosen matures;
- He distributes well with both hands and;
- He has good hands in the sense that he catch difficult passes (high, low and behinds his back) and can make instant decisions on what to do with the ball if he receives a bad pass under pressure.
Lambie in short is a player around which countries like Wales, England, Australia and New Zealand will construct backlines and game plans.
Apart from the fact that Lambie stood out for me in the semi-finals I also noticed at least eight more things about SA rugby. This is eight essential ingredients of rugby teams that put us behind the ball game when it comes to New Zealand. This includes:
- No scrumhalf that stands out. Bondesio was, for me, the best of the four that played over the weekend but I am not sure if his kicking game is good enough. Reinach -the Sharks No 9- get a bit flustered under pressure and his kicking game is also suspect;
- We don’t have a real quality No8 in the country and as long as we lack a quality combo in 8 and 9 the Springboks will struggle to beat New Zealand. The Golden Lions No8 was better in the tight aspects of the game than Duane Vermeulen but his roaming ability and game reading skills have not stood out for me;
- A ball carrying, linking No 7 like Rob Louw is absent in our rugby. Our coaches have turned all our loose forwards into ‘fetchers’ and basher-ups. Our loose forwards are so part and parcel of set moves resolving around forming pods that they can’t play heads-up rugby anymore. Imagine Rob Louw playing for the current Stormers, Bulls or Lions. He will not fit. The only team that allows their loose forwards to play heads-up natural loose forward rugby is the Sharks hence the fact that Keegan Daniel has been nominated as SA player of the year;
- We lack a good No15. Zane Kirschner was probably the best on the weekend in that position with Louis Ludick not far behind but neither of them make me feel that they can create something from nothing like Christian Cullen, Isreal Dagg or Gysie Pienaar;
- A real inside center namely someone with speed of the mark, twinkle toes, fast hands, line breaking and offload ability who can put his outside backs into space is absent in the top teams. I’ve seen some players like that in the SA u/21 team and can’t wait for those youngsters to come through but have a feeling that they will be coached into stampkar cannon fodder by our top coaches;
- Classy outside centers with speed, an outside break, good decision making and who understands running lines like Conrad Smith is a real scarcity in SA teams;
- How I miss backline interplay in SA rugby like what the Samoans did against us during the RWC 2011 or like Brain O-Driscol and Jamie Roberts for the Lions in 2007;
- The Stormers and the Bulls are still struggling to shift from traditional 10-man forwards structured rugby to 15-man high tempo rugby. The Sharks and Golden Lions are getting better at playing the high tempo modern game but still lack something to become natural and fluid at it. That something -which is lacking- is having real playmakers in the key positions of 8, 9, 10, 12 and 15. More importantly the SA teams lack linking loose forwards that can intuitively switch from roaming/linking to playing tight as the situation demands like Kieran Read and McCaw.
Well that in short is my thoughts after having watched the weekend Currie Cup semi-finals. Hopefully Heynecke Meyer has noticed what Lambie can do at No10.