Cape Town – The Springbok forwards stomped on to Suncorp Stadium and blew the powder-puff Wallabies pack away, so they deserve all the praise they are receiving at the moment. The loose trio especially were outstanding, but the man who stood out for me in Brisbane was flyhalf Morné Steyn. He encapsulated everything that is good within the Springbok set-up at the moment.
Yes, the pack provided front-foot ball for the backs by obliterating Michael Hooper and company at the breakdowns, and the Boks were powerful in the scrums and resourceful at the lineouts too. But it wasn’t far beyond what they achieved against the Wallabies and All Blacks on the Rugby Championship tour last year in Perth and Dunedin. Yet this time the Springboks put the Aussies away.
A lot of it was down to the unflustered Steyn. The Stade Francais pivot has been in much better form this season than last year and he produced a masterful performance on Saturday.
The moment that captured the evolvement of Steyn and this Springbok team came in the lead-up to captain Jean de Villiers’s try in the 59th minute.
The giant that is Duane Vermeulen picked up the ball from a breakdown and strode forward just inside the Bok half and when Ruan Pienaar spun the ball out, Steyn caught it about a yard behind his own 10-metre line. Normally the Boks would look to chip the ball into the corner for a lineout in the 22, but this time Steyn moved it, feeding De Villiers on his outside.
The skipper drew the defence and put Bryan Habana into the outside gap, with the speedster skinning Israel Folau. De Villiers finished off the try, but it came down to the decision-making of Steyn who was thinking on his feet and playing what was in front of him.
That was the broader attacking mindset the Boks have adopted with vigour in 2013, and even with Zane Kirchner – who had a strong game – at fullback, Heyneke Meyer has got his team firing in every respect. They kick when they have to and run when they need to. That might sound simple, but rugby can be a simple game if you allow it to be.
There was another example of the confidence the Boks have in their attack as Kirchner’s try was a well-constructed effort. The Boks didn’t just try to maul from a lineout on the Wallabies 22, but built up a few phases towards the middle of the field before Pienaar went to the blindside and found Willie le Roux with a magnificent long pass, the Cheetahs magician throwing a great inside ball for Kirchner to finish off. When do you see a Springbok team scoring tries like that against the Wallabies in Australia?
Steyn converted seven out of nine goal-kicks, controlled the tempo of the Bok game with his tactical kicking and sharp passing, and stood strong in defence. He also set up Coenie Oosthuizen’s try with a superb touch-finder from a penalty that went out five metres from the Wallabies line.
He has proven before that he is the man for the big moment, but Steyn is an even better player now than he was when he landed that monster penalty to clinch the Lions series in 2009.