When John Plumtree was forced to send Pat Lambie in at flyhalf against the Lions, you got the feeling that it was pretty much a gamble that the coach was forced to make, after Steve Meyer ruled himself out for the season. A short-term fix, but not to worry, because replacements were on their way…
After a frankly disastrous Super 14 campaign, at least as far as the pivot position was concerned, the Sharks were up the creek without a paddle and needed to procure some decent flyhalf depth – and urgently. Andy Goode had left, Ruan Pienaar announced that it was his plan to do the same (not that he ever wanted to play flyhalf anyway) and outside of the dependable Monty Dumond, the Sharks had, quite literally, nobody to pull on the jersey. Meyer duly stepped up and to some degree atoned for his shock resignation just before the start of the Super 14, but his injury again threw things wide open and exposed the lack of good depth in the Sharks system.
Rudolf Straeuli had been working pretty hard behind the scenes, though and while the process of getting Andre Pretorius match fit again has only now been completed, moves were made to bring in a host of players ahead of next year’s Super 15 – including flyhalf options in Meyer Bosman, Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Conrad Hoffman. All good stuff and the right sort of things to do, apart from one glaring problem. Lambie actually turned out to be a bloody good flyhalf!
Not only does he look the part himself, but he seems to be completely reinvigorating the careers of whoever is fortunate to wear the number 12 shirt outside him, with both Dries Strauss and Riaan Swanepoel looking completely different players to the staid “bash-it-up merchants” we’ve seen over the last two years. In a case of the most supreme irony, the Sharks right now look to be in the sort of position that they probably don’t really need all of the players they have bought for next year and the coaches now, once again, are going to have the sort of selection and player management issues last seen when Brad Barritt, Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Strauss and Rory Kockott were all trying to squeeze into just 3 jerseys.
Let’s not get too carried away here, though. Rugby is a contact sport and we all know that anything could happen. One injury to Lambie (God forbid) could throw the entire debate wide open again, so I don’t for a second believe that the Sharks have erred in buying Potgieter and Bosman. I do feel though that, particularly in Potgeiter’s case, the situation has moved on from what it was when he was made the initial offer and if he’s intending on coming to Durban with an automatic right to the starting flyhalf spot, he should probably think again. Not to say that Potgieter isn’t a valuable addition to the squad and one who, along with Andre Pretorius, can impart a huge amount of knowledge to Lambie. The option that does warrant serious consideration is to move Lambie back to the inside centre position come Super 15 time (let’s not forget how good he looked there too!) and allow Potgieter and Pretorius to share the flyhalf duties. Bosman would be the big loser in this situation and I still need to be convinced that he should be an automatic selection ahead of Swannie. Too many flyhalf options inevitably has a knock-on effect, with too many options at 12 as well! And that’s not even to talk about scrumhalf, with Conrad Hoffman joining the likes of Rory Kockott (we assume), Charl McLeod as well as a brilliant pair of youngsters in Ross Cronje and Cobus Reinach.
My take on this is that we need to identify and protect our key long-term assets, while using the short-term “gap fillers” like Potgieter as exactly that. If anyone is going to get disgruntled and want to leave, I’d prefer if it wasn’t Pat Lambie. Who would want to be the Sharks coach!Tweet