Pat Lambie comes up tops
THE Sharks, as expected, beat the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday and in the battle of the Bok flyhalves it was Pat Lambie who came out on top against Johan Goosen.
Lambie, 22, is the Springbok incumbent, having started in the last three Tests of 2012 against Ireland, Scotland and England on the undefeated November tour. Before that Goosen, 20, started the last two Tests of the Four Nations against Australia and New Zealand before injury ended his season.
As a consequence, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer handed the No10 jersey to Lambie, in preference to Elton Jantjies and Morne Steyn, which appears to have given Lambie confidence.
But the reward of being first-choice flyhalf came with instructions from Meyer to improve his kicking game and Lambie has clearly responded.
On Saturday he kicked a perfect seven out of seven from all angles and distances for a haul of 19 points as the Sharks won 29-22, and his pin-point kicking from hand was a marked improvement on last year.
Goosen, by contrast, playing his first match since damaging his knee against the All Blacks at Soccer City in October, understandably looked rusty.
He missed his first three shots at goal and a fumble into touch resulted in a lineout that led to the Sharks' opening try for wing Lwazi Mvovo.
Operating behind a pack on the back foot for large portions of the match, to his credit he gradually settled and slowly started to play an influential role. He kicked two conversions and a penalty in the second half and played a hand in both Cheetahs tries.
But overall Lambie won the first round of the flyhalf battle.
"Pat played beautifully tonight," Sharks coach John Plumtree said. "His kicking for posts was outstanding. The faith the Bok management showed in him last year, and the pressure they put on him to improve, has been evident in training and it showed today.
"Pat is just going to get better and better. What's important for Pat is that he has to have the right people around him, to play off him. Frans Steyn on his outside and JP Pietersen coming off his wing is what helps Pat's game. He pretty much did everything right tonight."
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske was quick to defend Goosen's indifferent start and backed the prodigious youngster to improve against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.
"The way Johan fought back after a slow start was a big positive," Drotske said. "Last year he missed about three kicks all season and today he missed his first three kicks, which was unusual.
"It was good that he got his confidence back in the second half and that shows what a quality player he is."