The primary roles in the team are to run the attack, organise the defence and execute the team’s strategy
It has always been said the building of a champion rugby team starts with the selection of a capable flyhalf; and some highly respected championship-winning coaches have said that much over the years
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen hailed flyhalf Dan Carter as a “special player” when the All Blacks claimed the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Clive Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup coach, said flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson “took rugby union to whole new level”. He also added: “Jonny was special and he scared the opposition.”
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is a rugby man through and through. He would know about the vital roles of flyhalves in the making of a championship-winning team.
He is in the process of preparing the Springboks to conquer the world at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in just over year’s time. This year the Springboks will play 10 matches and nearly as many next year before the global showpiece kicks off on September 20.
As he plots the way forward, there are presently five flyhalves Erasmus’ radar. They are, in no special order, Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Robert du Preez, Patrick Lambie and Damian Willemse.
Their primary roles in the team are to run the attack, organise the defence and execute the team’s strategy. Erasmus will very likely consider the player who fares best at executing the team’s strategy as his first choice.
Pollard (see page 19) has returned from injury-enforced lay-offs and this season has been outstanding on occasions, but in the Bulls’ two most recent games he hasn’t produced stand-out performances. Yet even when his team had been under the whip he has produced some deft touches.
Jantjies’ form of late has taken a dip and that might have been influenced by the Lions suffering back-to-back defeats. Earlier in the season though he produced a few displays that would have propelled him to the top of the heap.
As an international flyhalf, he hasn’t always produced a tactical kicking display capable of making a telling impact on the match. Moreover, the Lions generally play an unstructured game which allows Jantjies to vent his natural instincts.
He may battle to stay with a blueprint that the coach will enforce rather than allow him to play the situation in front of him.
Du Preez has started showing maturity beyond his years and last week he was at the forefront when the Sharks took the Highlanders apart in Durban. It’s a rare sight seeing a local side dominating New Zealand opposition as was the case then.
Du Preez scored a magical try after showing great skill to latch onto a wild pass flung by Curwin Bosch. Like Pollard, Du Preez can be prolific when kicking for field possession.
Lambie is presently playing in France where reports say he has been playing well, without delivering Man of the Match performances. He has all the qualities of a top-class flyhalf with an educated book and Erasmus may just the coach to bring the best out of him gain He has also proved his worth as an international fullback and that adds utility value to the team.
Willemse is the most gifted of the SA flyhalves and his stepping ability can cause havoc for opposing defences.
His Super Rugby stats this year is far and away the most impressive by a flyhalf but once he establishes himself as a matchwinner of note, there is a danger that he’ll be singled out for special attention by opposition coaches.
He could further enhance his growing reputation with an authoritative display for the Junior Boks in the upcoming 2018 World Rugby Under-20 Championship later this month in France. If that happens, he’ll be a strong contender the Boks’ No 10 jersey.
For now, Pollard is the frontrunner but that could change by the time the selectors sit down to chose the Bok teams for the opening mid-year Tests against Wales and England in June.
African News Agency