Scottish roots remain key to proud Bok Patrick Lambie

THE word has gone out in Ayr that Sanny Lambie's great-grandson is playing at Murrayfield this weekend, and it has turned some heads.

• Patrick Lambie pictured with former Scotland player and relative Peter Brown. Picture: Jane Barlow

Those who recall the late Sanny, a popular chip-shop owner whose business was to be found near Ayr United's Somerset Park would probably be surprised to hear of the rugby connection, but to then be told that the latest Lambie sports star will be paraded not in the navy blue of Scotland but in South Africa's green and gold would probably knock them flat.

Fly-half Patrick Lambie, who can also play at centre and full-back, has been honing his skills under the watchful eyes of Springbok coaches, including the legendary Percy Montgomery and current fly-half Morne Steyn in Edinburgh this week and yesterday the 20-year-old met up again with Peter Brown, the former Scotland captain, whose grandmother was the sister of Lambie's great-grandmother, and Sanny's wife.

But we need not dust down the archives to find the new Springbok's Scottish connections as his dad Ian was born to Scottish parents, Jack and Neeta Lambie, and spent his early childhood in Troon, something Patrick is well aware of.

"My dad (Ian) lived here for the first 12 years of his life and his parents were from Scotland," he said. "My dad was actually born in England, but he grew up here until he was 12. He has been in South Africa for 40 years so he is definitely South African now!

"When I got my British passport a couple of years ago that was when the family connections really came up. My dad was keen on my brother Nicholas and myself getting a British passport and I think it's a nice thing to have. My dad played a few games for Natal in the 1980s, as a wing/full-back, and my mum's dad Dr Nick Labuschagne played hooker for England and the Barbarians, so there is definitely rugby in the genes.

"I met Peter last year and he is a very nice man. He stayed with us for a few days in South Africa. I have watched a few games of his and know that he was a successful Scotland captain, and I heard the story that he might have toured with the British and Irish Lions had he not had to work. And I know of Gordon Brown too, and his famous tour with the Lions to South Africa.I am very proud to be part of that family."

Gordon actually made his international debut at Murrayfield against South Africa, in 1969, when Scotland won 6-3, before going on to make his mark on the world game with a coming-of-age performance in the British and Irish Lions incredible Test series victory in 1974, where he played in the first three Test wins and scored two tries, having also played on the victorious Lions 1971 tour of Australia and New Zealand.

His brother Peter played in the 8-5 defeat of the Springboks in 1965, and though he missed the 1969 Test match he played his part in a 3-3 draw for the South against the Tommy Bedford-led Boks at Netherdale that year. Between them, the Browns never lost to this weekend's opposition.

"There can't be many that can say that," laughed Peter at South Africa training yesterday. "We have a pretty good record against the Springboks, which makes it a bit strange this weekend. The family genes will be on the other side this time, so of course we all want Patrick to get a chance to play at Murrayfield, as myself and Gordon were fortunate to do, and to play really well, but clearly we want Scotland to win again and pick themselves up after the disappointing performance against New Zealand.

"But I'm just delighted to see Patrick being given his opportunity. He has only turned 20 a few weeks ago, but he earned the chance with a great performance in the Currie Cup final. I tried my best to persuade him when I was across last year that he should try a Scotland jersey, but he is a passionate South African lad and good luck to him.

"He is a talented rugby player, but he is also a lovely boy, very level-headed and it is very pleasing, I have to say, that he has shown interest in learning about where his dad and grandparents came from and has an affinity with our country too."

Lambie's man-of-the-match performance in that cup final, where he handed off monster 'Bok flanker Schalk Burger, scored two crucial tries and added 15 points with the boot, as the Sharks cruised past Western Province 30-10, has made him the talk of South African rugby. He has been quickly accepted into the international squad, albeit with the odd ribbing that goes with being the baby of the tour party, and is pushing into the frame for a place in the 2011 World Cup squad.

He finished training yesterday with some extra kicking practice, given the likelihood that he will be called off the bench at some stage against Scotland and take over duties with the boot - as he has done against Ireland and Wales, scoring his first Test points.. Afterwards, Lambie said he is looking forward to what he expects to be an emotional day.

"It is pretty exciting for me to come here for the first time. I have never been to Scotland and I don't think my dad has been back either since his family left when he was little.He is flying in with my mother tomorrow (Friday] night and that will be special for all the family, but particularly my dad. He is very excited because all of our heritage and background lies here.

"Being on this tour is incredible. It is something I have dreamt of since I was a youngster and I'm pinching myself to think that I'm rubbing shoulders with the rest of the Springboks, and being a part of this team. It's fantastic.

"I played against Scotland in the World Junior Championships earlier this year in Argentina, and it was quite an emotional moment standing there for the anthems and hearing Flower of Scotland, and I think it will be the same at Murrayfield. I know it very well - it was also the song of our school rivals, Hilton College, with some different words, so I would be able to sing both anthems this weekend, but I might just stick to my one."

He may have been qualified to play for Scotland and England, but this latest sporting prodigy is quite clearly a Springbok and tomorrow he hopes to have the opportunity to prove that he made the right choice.