Springboks: A Problem Position Under Our Noses?

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While we have busied ourselves with braai-side arguments about our front row and who should or who shouldn’t go to the World Cup, I fear there is another position of contention that is going unnoticed right under our very noses.

And that position is flyhalf.

Exactly who is our first choice backline general? More specifically, who do we put in charge of the number 10 shirt in England in September?

I’m not convinced that Heyneke himself knows to be honest. In the last season or two we have seen the pendulum swing between Pollard and Lambie since Steyn handed over the reins. Pretty sure Goosen got a run somewhere in there too.

Now in a World Cup, I believe, your flyhalf needs to have the following characteristics:

  1. First and foremost, he needs to be an 85%+ goal kicker. It is vital that he can be trusted to knock a 3 pointer over from just about anywhere in his range.
  2. He needs to be solid on defence. While he doesn’t necessarily have to be Braam Van Straaten, he needs to not drop off tackles.
  3. Thirdly, he needs to be tactically competent in his passing, in-play kicking and exit play. If he can’t do number 1 and 2 well – he needs to EXCEL at this.
  4. Experience helps and in the absence of experience it is vital that he is playing alongside seasoned veterans. While many might hate to admit it – experience at a World Cup is indispensable.

So how do each of our incumbent playmakers stack up to the above criteria? Let’s take a look:

1. Handre Pollard
Kicking reliability: 6/10
Defence: 7/10
Tactical competence: 8/10
Experience: 3/10

There is little doubt in my mind that young Pollard is the future of the Springbok number 10 spot and possibly even a Springbok captain. But is he the right man to lead us to World Cup glory this time? I don’t think he’s ready.

I don’t think anyone can honestly say that they would trust him to seal the deal with a penalty in extra time against New Zealand in a world cup semi, and that’s my biggest criticism. His time will come.

Would I take him to RWC15? I would, but he wouldn’t start.

2. Pat Lambie
Kicking reliability: 8/10
Defence: 8/10
Tactical competence: 8/10
Experience: 7/10

Lambie’s 41 tests really put into perspective how far this 24-year-old has come. Making his Bok debut way back in 2010, Lambie has been a part of the Springbok fold since he was 19.

While his versatility has seen him get a bit of a raw deal in the past, lately he has made the number 10 shirt his own and done so with aplomb. He is dependable from the tee, solid on defence and brings a bit of an X factor to the flyhalf channel.

Would I take him to RWC15? Absolutely.

3. Elton Jantjies
Kicking reliability: 9/10
Defence: 7/10
Tactical competence: 7/10
Experience: 1/10

Another recipient of a P Divvy era raw deal, Elton Jantjies is a talented guy with what can only be described as the worst hair style in world rugby.

Having spent a season or two at NTT Shining Arcs, Jantjies has honed his skills and delivered a very impressive showing in this year’s Super 15, playing a key role in the Lions’ success.

But will he be able to take the step up at rugby’s biggest showpiece? He probably can but it wouldn’t be fair to him or the fans to place that expectation on him.

Would I take him to RWC15? No.

4. Morne Steyn
Kicking reliability: 9/10
Defence: 7/10
Tactical competence: 6/10
Experience: 8/10

Morne Steyn is one of those players that supporters love to hate. Toward the end of 2013 and during 2014 we definitely did not see Steyn’s best side and eventually he was dumped and replaced by Pollard.

However, in his early days he turned in some sublime performances for the Boks. During 2009 he scored 31 points by himself, helping the Boks eventually lift the Tri-Nations crown – the last time we have done so. He also holds a number of Springbok records including the fastest to 400, 500 and 600 points in a Bok jersey. Read more here.

Steyn is player of fine pedigree and, at 31, is by no means too old.

Would I take him to RWC15? Definitely.

So those are my choices for who I would take to the World Cup. Who would I start with? My answer is Lambie with Steyn on the bench. Although I would like to see Steyn get a game in the lead up to the competition.

There you have it. A rundown of what I think should happen in the number 10  spot. What are your thoughts? Are you mad that Pollard wouldn’t start? Good! Hit us with a comment or tweet @leftbacks.

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