Rugby has long been about combinations, and Tank Lanning likes the look of the developing combination between Francois Steyn and Pat Lambie.
The traditional backline combinations are the halfbacks, centres and back three, but much like Butch James aided the progress of Elton Jantjies while playing inside centre for the Lions, a key combination in modern day rugby is the flyhalf and centre pairing.
Lambie, who has already played 20 Tests for the Boks, admitted that having Frans Steyn – the unlikely new Sharks captain and a veteran of over 50 Tests – playing alongside him was aiding his progress.
“I’m really enjoying playing with Frans, he’s a great guy, he has enthusiasm and he has leadership now.
“It’s been really nice. I know I can shovel the bad balls over to him and he will get go-forward for us, and when I’m under pressure I can pass it to him and he’ll kick it 60 metres down the field, so it’s really nice.”
After shading his battle with pretender to the throne, Johan Goosen, Lambie will be up against another attacking player in Elton Jantjies this week. Jantjies did not have his best outing in his first game for his new franchise, and is defensively frail at times, but certainly cannot be written off as a threat with ball in hand.
“It’s a really good challenge. I think we’re really blessed in South Africa to have great flyhalves at every union,” Lambie said.
Sharks coach John Plumtree was pleased with the way Lambie had started the season and seemed very aware of the spotlight being put on the position: “It’s probably the most talked about position coming from Naas Botha days, I guess.
“There’s always a lot of pressure and he’s got the composure needed for that position. He’s growing in his communication with the team, which is obviously vital, so he’s getting there.”
Making Saturday’s clash even more intriguing is the fact that Jantjies will have current Bok skipper Jean de Villiers outside him. There is much debate as to where De Villiers should play given that Francois Steyn seems an obvious choice at inside centre. Do the Boks then opt to play both Steyn and De Villiers, or go with a more attacking outside centre like Juan de Jongh, Paul Jordaan or Robert Ebersohn?
Perhaps the battle for Bok places will be about combinations rather than individuals come that first selection later in the year?