It has been a tough 2012 Test season for Morné Steyn so far – he’s missed kicks at goal, he’s slipped a few tackles and some critics have been calling for his head.
But Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer believes that his No 1 flyhalf is going to have “a great game” in Saturday’s opening Rugby Championship clash against Argentina at Newlands.
Steyn had a mediocre 54.5% success rate in the June Test series against England, slotting only 12 out of 22 kicks. His tactical kicking was also off the mark, while some of his decision-making was questionable. But his Test record is one of the best, with a remarkable 452 points in just 37 Tests (he will also pass Butch James as the most-capped Bok flyhalf tomorrow), and Meyer knows more than most how to get the best out of Steyn, having coached him at the Bulls.
“I don’t want to put my foot in it, but I think that Morné is going to have a great game. I really believe that, although the game is not at altitude, he is looking much more relaxed. He has been playing non-stop for three years, and it can really get to someone.
“It’s been a good mental break for him, and he is also now a little boy richer, so that has also put a lot of pressure on him,” the Bok coach said this week. “I can see that Morné is much more relaxed. Even in one of the training sessions, suddenly he is attacking the line more and breaking the line.
“The break has come at the right time for him, and he is a professional player. He knows that if you don’t perform to high standards, the criticism is going to come and you need to take it on the chin. And if there’s one guy who can take it, it’s Morné. I hope for his sake that he is going to have a great game.”
Steyn will again be in the spotlight at Newlands tomorrow, as he is coming up against one of the most-talented No 10s around, Juan Martin Hernandez. The Argentina flyhalf is making his comeback to Test rugby after three years on the sidelines due to injury, and will be keen to show that he still has the game to flummox defences and get “Los Pumas” on the front foot.
Hernandez is also going to give Bok fullback Zane Kirchner some nervy moments under the high ball. “At one stage, he was close to being the best flyhalf in world rugby,” said Meyer.
“He’s proven himself in tough competition in France. He’s never had a good off-season, but now that he’s had his op, he is a dangerman. He can kick with both feet, he’s a great kicker of the ball, a great distributor.”
Along with Hernandez, Argentina’s main weapon will be their celebrated scrum, with the famous “Bajada” technique. Loosehead prop Rodrigo Roncero is 33 years old and will win his 50th Test cap, while hooker Eusebio Guinazu was known for his scrummaging power when he played for WP, Boland and the Stormers in 2010.
It’s going to get rough and tough out at Newlands on Saturday. Apart from the scrums, the Boks will have to counter Argentina’s penchant for setting up mauls from lineouts (and anywhere on the field), those pick-and-gos at the breakdowns, and a barrage of up-and-unders.
As Meyer points out, “Los Pumas” will bring a lot of passion to the game. There will be tears shed when they sing their anthem, and they are going to fly into those rucks. But they are much more professional in their approach nowadays – “You don’t just beat France,” said Meyer about their June victory.
If the likes of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Eben Etzebeth can repel those charges from Argentina around the fringes, the Boks would be well on their way to victory.\
Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (capt), 12 Francois Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Argentina: 15 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, 14 Gonzalo Camacho, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt), 7 Alvaro Galindo, 6 Julio Farias Cabello, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Rodrigo Roncero. Bench: 16 Bruno Postiglioni, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Tomas Leonardi, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Martin Rodriguez.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia). Kickoff: 5pm. TV: M-Net/SS1/SS HD. – Cape Times