Springbok kicking coach Louis Koen believes multi-skilled Pat Lambie’s long-term future is at flyhalf.
Lambie played at fullback for the Springboks during last year’s Rugby World Cup but has since stressed his desire to direct the team in the No.10 jersey.
Lambie started at flyhalf in the wins over Ireland and Scotland and Koen said the versatile 22-year-old has shown significant growth on the end-of-year tour.
“I can’t emphasise enough how much Lambie has impressed us so far on this tour and I believe he is a superb all-round flyhalf,” Koen said at a press conference in London on Tuesday.
“There are a few tactical things we wanted him to work on, and that is still a work in progress, but he has made massive strides.”
Koen dismissed suggestions that Lambie lacks the tactical nous to be successful as a Test flyhalf and said he is confident he could fulfil the role against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
“He is definitely not just a player who can run the ball wide and play an attacking game, he can definitely control it with his boot,” he said.
"He has excellent kicking skills, his distribution and decision-making is good, and I think defence coach John McFarland would agree with me that Pat also contributes hugely on defence.”
Koen said it is vital for Lambie to settle in the position at all levels of the game in order to develop into a polished pivot.
“I see him as a flyhalf, not as a fullback. I cannot talk for the Sharks or make decisions for them, but I would really like to see Lambie specialising at flyhalf and not playing anywhere else. I think that flyhalf is his position and I would like to see him develop there.
“He has done really well on this tour if you consider that he only started playing flyhalf again towards the end of the Currie Cup. That is why there are still areas that require work. There are position-specific things that he needs to work on as a flyhalf, but already on this tour we have seen him make great strides.
“I know he played a lot of rugby at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level as a flyhalf, but international rugby is different. The ball comes back from the loose scrums a lot slower than it does at Super Rugby level. That means there is less time to make decisions, and there is less space. That is something that he is getting used to.”
Springbok defence coach John McFarland expressed his delight at the improvement the team have made defensively in Europe, having conceded just a solitary try in the Dublin and Edinburgh Tests.
“The good thing for me and the most impressive thing is that we are now chasing dominance all the time in the collisions.
“We have certainly increased our dominance of the collisions from where we were in the Rugby Championship, and that is pleasing to see. Apart from that, we have only conceded an average of one or two line breaks a game, which is pretty phenomenal.
“Defence is not something you immediately get right. It’s a process, and the more you coach the players the more you get to understand them and grow with them. You mustn’t forget we have only had 11 Tests with these players.”
McFarland said the team have also adapted well to the new scrum sequence.
“I think we are doing remarkably well considering it has only been two games and both of those games were test matches against teams that have been playing to those laws for a few months,” he said.
“One thing is that the scrums have become so much more important again.
"Test rugby is about harvesting points, and everyone is now trying to scrum one another. It has become a massive battle. England did not use one backline move against us off a scrum in June, there was invariably a penalty either one way or another way. So you don’t see the backlines going backwards to keep the space."
McFarland added that the inclusion of Francois Louw has given the Springboks “the right mix” in the back row.
“Another thing that I have noticed is that the ball comes back from the loose scrums a heck of a lot slower in international rugby than it does in Super Rugby. There is a lot more competing at the breakdown. A lot of our improvement during the year is down to us having the right mix now at loose-forward.
“Having the back row settled does make a big difference. Francois Louw has offered us massive positives because he has been in the northern hemisphere for so long and he knows the game here so well. He and Duane Vermeulen are very good together.
"And then you have the Willem Alberts big hits. The big tackle Willem Alberts put in early in the Scotland game, where he drove [Nick] De Luca back five or six metres, had a big impact on how that game was played out.
“They are the right mix, with Flo making the turnovers, and then you also have Marcell Coetzee coming on with his massive work-rate and his ability to contribute in all aspects of the game. Even though he doesn’t start, Marcell plays a big role in bringing the right balance to our back row.”
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