Haven’t we heard this one before? Blond kid goes straight from school into the Natal Sharks starting lineup, gets picked for the Springboks within the season and then is a vital player in their world cup campaign as a twenty year old.
For 2007’s Francois Steyn, read 2011’s Patrick Lambie.
The similarities are obvious, but while Steyn emerged as a prodigious individual talent, Lambie’s strengths lie more in the maturity of his game as a team player. Just like Steyn, he seemingly walked into the professional ranks with all the necessary skills at the required level, and what he lacks physically in comparison with his predecessor, he makes up for with a more well-rounded attitude and a far superior decision-making process.
At 177cm [5’10”] tall and 86kg [13st7lbs], Lambie is a long way from being the specimen that Steyn – 191cm [6’3”] and 110kg [17st4lbs] – is, and one might think that in a game as physical as rugby, and especially in a country as renowned for its aggressive physicality as South Africa, the former might face a prejudice that the latter simply never encountered when it came to selection. On the contrary, Lambie has been repeatedly thrown in at the deep-end, expected to produce in a variety of positions [fullback, inside centre and outhalf] and has done the job at every level he has encountered: Currie Cup, Super Rugby and international rugby.
Nineteen years old for the majority of the 2010 Southern Hemisphere season, he scored 205 points in 16 games and finished with a bravura Man of the Match performance in the Currie Cup Final against Western Province: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cM2rElkC8Y. He was called up to the South African squad that toured Europe a fortnight after his twentieth birthday in November of that year, and debuted against Ireland in the first game played at the new Aviva Staidium. In his first season of Super Rugby for the Sharks , he broke the franchise record for most points scored in a season by an individual player.
His rise has been thus far exemplary, even in tough circumstances: he was outhalf in the weakened team that New Zealand put to the sword in Wellington in the second game of the Tri-Nations, and came out of it with a lot of credit from the Kiwi commentators for his bravery in defence. The South African outhalf position for RWC11 certainly isn’t nailed down, with no fewer than five players having worn the bottle green No10 jersey since 2008: Morné Steyn, Francois Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James and Lambie himself.
It’s not at all impossible that Lambie overtakes a former world-cup winner [James] and a Lions-conqueror [Morné Steyn] and takes on the mantle of South African outhalf during the world cup: he has risen to every challenge he has thus far, and he’s the logical back to carry the Boks into the post-Fourie du Preez period in the near future.