Centurion – Former Springbok Patrick Lambie has backed the incumbent number 10 Damian Willemse to shine for South Africa for years to come.
Lambie was speaking at the Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational at Sun City on Friday, when he was asked about the Springbok flyhalf situation with Handre Pollard out injured and Elton Jantjies dealing with off-field issues.
“Damian’s general play has been really strong. Defensively he’s sound because he’s extremely physical. He makes his tackles, he doesn’t shy away from contact. On attack he’s had moments of brilliance too,” said Lambie.
“He’s got great feet and offloading game. It’s perhaps just his kicking game where he needs to build up a bit of confidence because that in turn will instil a lot of confidence in the players around him. That’s certainly something that can improve and he can work on. If Handre isn’t playing, he’s the one that should be wearing the 10 jersey.”
When Pollard returns, and if Jantjies also becomes eligible for selection, it would be remiss of Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber to not include Willemse in the backline believed the 32-year-old Lambie.
“He’s extremely talented so he’s good in all three positions. With the way he’s kicking, perhaps they should just take away the kicking responsibilities from him, perhaps that means he could be better suited to playing 12 or 15. I would encourage him, but I imagine he is already, to spend a lot of time on his kicking game if flyhalf is the position he wants to play in, and the position he’s picked. He needs to execute his kicking game in high pressure situations.
“It’s tough on him too. He hasn’t played flyhalf for his franchise. He’s cutting his teeth at the highest level.”
As for Lambie, he retired from the game he loved in 2019 while still in his 20s. It’s been a long road to happiness, after leaving his considerable rugby talents behind. His decision to retire was forced, after he suffered multiple concussions and he was advised to hang up his boots for his future wellbeing.
He’s in a better place now, but as he explains how he began his journey after rugby it was definitely with a fair tinge of regret.
“It’s difficult, I would still love to be playing. I’m 32, I could essentially be in my prime now. It was the hand I was dealt, I was lucky to have played for a number of years at the top level and I was fortunate in that regard.
“I’m now a strong supporter, I do enjoy watching games now. It was difficult in the beginning, it still hurt quite a lot. There was a bit of resentment and what-ifs. Now it’s been four years since I’ve played and I’ve come to terms with life after rugby. I’m enjoying family life and having weekends to myself. I don’t watch rugby all weekend long, in fact I don’t watch much rugby at all. But I do enjoy watching the Springboks. I guess I’m doing okay.
“I did struggle for a while after I stopped playing, I was battling with symptoms for a year. But I’m on top of them now, and there’s no reason for me to have any symptoms again. Unless I get bashed over the head. So no contact sports.”