While South African rugby shouldn’t be shocked about Pat Lambie’s departure to France, there are repercussions.
The South African Rugby Union (Saru) on Tuesday confirmed that the reliable Sharks utility back has been granted a release from his joint contract with the Springboks and the union.
It means he can complete a lucrative move to French side Racing 92.
One positive, as Springboks coach Allister Coetzee noted, is that he isn’t lost to the national team.
“Having played 56 Tests for the Springboks already, he is still eligible for future selection,” said the national mentor.
“He has been loyal to the Springboks and has had done very well for his country. It is a big loss for us but we want to wish him well with the next chapter of his career.”
Indeed, Lambie fulfills Saru’s criteria of having to have played 30 Tests or more to still be picked as an overseas-based player.
The 26-year-old admits it was a tough decision but one he had to make after suffering various injuries.
In particular, he struggled with concussion that threatened to cut his career short.
“The decision to leave a place that will always remain home was not an easy one. However, after having a number of set-backs over the last few years, the thinking was to break the cycle and to go experience something different in a new environment,” said Lambie.
The biggest headache is where it leaves the Sharks and local rugby in general.
Questions continued to be raised over the competitiveness of the domestic game and losing men like Lambie pulls valuable experience out of the system.
But there are no hard feelings.
“Pat will always be regarded as an exceptional player who has served with distinction. He is a strong leader and a fierce competitor that always sets a great example,” said Sharks coach Robert du Preez.
“It is sad to say goodbye to a great player that embodies our values and who was a wonderful ambassador for our brand. We respect his decision and thank him for his dedication and loyalty over the years.”
Regarding his health, Lambie has been shown a green light.
“Pat is fully recovered from his concussion sustained in May this year and has been for some time now. He has been training symptom free for the last two months,” said Alan Kourie, the Sharks’ team doctor.