Frans Steyn is a great playmaker, and he could create some magic in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies, says Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Steyn looked full of running in the two Tests he played against England, also displaying a free-spirited approach on attack as he tried to create opportunities out wide.
Steyn got married the next weekend and missed the third Test in Port Elizabeth, and was used as a battering ram up the middle for the Boks against Argentina – just charging towards a defender in front of him. That is not the precocious talent we all know, who is equipped to unlock some of the best defences in the world. He can do so much more for the Bok backline.
Now the Bok coach appears to have given him greater freedom against a formidable Wallaby backline, which includes Quade Cooper at flyhalf, and Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper in the centres. “I think this week, we will use Frans more as a decoy, and play around him!” Meyer quipped at Wednesday’s team announcement press conference.
“But he is a great playmaker, and I really believe that Frans is almost there, back to his best form, and best conditioning form. I think that it’s only a matter of time before he will have a great game. If you look back at what Frans did against Argentina, he had small touches here and there, and two of those instances were game changing. He is working hard on his goal-kicking, but he is a quality player, and I’m really looking forward to a great game from him.
“The thing is that you can only bring your centres into play if you get quick ball. I think it was difficult for Frans to get most of his ball behind the advantage line, and it was slow ball. The best centres in the world can’t do anything with slow ball. So hopefully we will get some quick ball, get him into space, and then we can see some magic.
“He has been working hard on his fitness, and I’m looking forward to a big game from him. We need a big game from him.”
Steyn’s midfield partnership with captain Jean de Villiers hasn’t quite borne fruit yet, but they could become a dynamic combo. De Villiers had a good series against England, but didn’t make much of an impact in the two Tests against Argentina.
Perhaps the key for the Stormers skipper is to realise that Steyn is the one who should be creating the play, and that he (De Villiers) is now the strike-runner at outside centre. “Jean has fitted nicely into the role. Defence at this level is awesome, and even Argentina’s defence was at a high standard,” Meyer observed. “So, you are not just going to run through and break the line. I felt that Jean did well against England, and it’s important that we get good games from both of them.”
Meanwhile, WP No 8 Duane Vermeulen will finally make his Test debut for the Boks on Saturday, as Meyer made three changes, including two positional switches, to his starting line-up. Vermeulen comes in for Willem Alberts, who moves to flank for Jacques Potgieter, Ruan Pienaar is at No 9 for Francois Hougaard, who shifts to left wing, while Juandré Kruger returns in place of Andries Bekker at lock.
Lwazi Mvovo was unfortunate to be pushed to the bench for Hougaard, as the Sharks No 11 has made ground almost every time he carried the ball. “Lwazi is still a quality player. I thought that he had a really good Test match in Cape Town. The second one didn’t suit him as we didn’t get quick ball and there wasn’t a lot of room,” Meyer said.
“With JP out ... and I feel sorry for Lwazi ... it’s not a question of him being dropped. With JP Pietersen, most of our tries came from broken field. I just feel that at this stage, the great thing about Hougie is that he has the X-factor, he can bring something special to the party. He can always beat the first guy with his feet. And the way we play, he is always a threat around the breakdowns.
“Part of the gameplan is also speeding up the game, and Hougie will go in at nine if Ruan is in a wide channel.”
Meyer explained that Bekker’s omission was due to a combination of injury and rotation.
“Andries has been struggling with injuries the whole year. The medical team has done brilliantly with him, so his back is almost there and his ankle is almost there. I just felt that I wanted to give him a break. We want him to be 100 percent fit to play against New Zealand.”
Hooker and vice-captain Adriaan Strauss was also declared ready by Meyer after he came through a fitness test during yesterday’s practice in Perth. Strauss had a knee ligament strain, but the coach said that he took part in a scrumming session and didn’t have any negative reaction.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (capt), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Lwazi Mvovo, 22 Pat Lambie. – Cape Times