Lambie: ‘England’s run an example for Springboks to follow’

Date published: November 10 2016

South Africa fly-half Pat Lambie is no stranger to Twickenham, having played there five times and suffered just one defeat.

That single loss took place on his last appearance on England's turf, in the Rugby World Cup semi-final last year against New Zealand. When it comes to facing England, Lambie's record at Twickenham is perfect.

The Springboks' vice-captain this weekend is a rarity, given that so many news faces in the side have never faced England at Twickenham.

The likes of Lambie, Tendai Mtawarira and others will be charged with keeping the heads of those team-mates screwed on straight.

"There are some good memories. A handful of players in this group have played here and won here before so hopefully we can draw on those. Apart from that, they count for nothing really," Lambie said.

"The experience of playing at Twickenham against England and having an idea of what the atmosphere will be like, maybe the conditions as well, I think that’s probably more beneficial than anything else."

South Africa's one new cap, Francois Venter, will do well to soak up any advice Lambie has about taking England on at home.

Lambie spoke enthusiastically about partnership once again with his former age-group team-mate, hailing Venter's leadership abilities having captained the Cheetahs in Super Rugby this season.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing with him so far, winding the clock back to when we played U20s together," Lambie said.

"He is a great communicator on the field, understands the game well, and is obviously a leader having captained the Cheetahs. To have a player like that in the backline is a huge advantage for everyone around him and I’m chuffed that he gets a first Test start on Saturday.

"He is super excited. He was elated to get a go last week [against the Barbarians], he played really nicely, and now he’s over the moon. He has worked really hard and waited a long time for this opportunity, so he’s looking forward to it."

That enthusiasm is exactly what the Springboks need after one of their most difficult years in recent history. Winning on Saturday would of course lift the mood, but then again so would improved performances, and that is the target not just at Twickenham but in the following weeks against Italy and Wales.

"The last few weeks have been very positive. Guys in our group have been playing really well recently," Lambie explained.

"We said goodbye to a number of players on Sunday but the bunch who were with us were part of Currie Cup-winning teams or who played in that final, and they brought a new confidence to the group and that’s transferred to this week as well.

"We have spoken as a player group about keeping this tour as positive as possible. It has been a challenging year, but it is a huge opportunity to finish off strongly and make it a good year."

And if England can turn things around so dramatically, then technically the Springboks can too.

Their World Cup exit on home soil followed by the end of Stuart Lancaster's reign left England in a hole – one which they have climbed out of in 2016 with nine wins out of nine under Eddie Jones. Whether others believe it or not, Lambie knows that the next three games are a chance to get South Africa back on a roll.

“A week is a very long time in rugby. England have shown that once you get a good thing going and the confidence up, it’s very hard to stop," he acknowledged.

"They’ve been playing some very good rugby, nine wins out of nine, they must be full of confidence. It’s going to be a massive challenge."

by Ben Coles