Johannesburg – There’s only one reason why the Springboks managed to escape from Mendoza at the end of last month with a win in the bag: Morné Steyn.
The former Bulls flyhalf succeeded with every kick at goal (five penalties and a conversion), allowing the Boks to come away with a shaky victory. And whether certain fans like it or not, Steyn is indispensable right now for Heyneke Meyer’s Bok team.
After a disappointing 2012 season, which ended with him losing his place in the starting team to Pat Lambie, Steyn has been in fine form all season – for the Bulls in Super Rugby and more recently for the Boks. His strike rate is around 90 per cent this year and he’ll be the key player if the Boks are to have a chance of overcoming Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks in the Rugby Championship.
Days before the Boks’ departure to Australia last week, Meyer said he’d be hoping and praying nothing happened to Bryan Habana and Steyn as they ran out for their new French clubs last weekend. Meyer emphasised Steyn’s name, saying just how vital he is to the Boks.
Fortunately Steyn played only a bit part in Stade Francais’ game against Biarritz and came through unscathed.
Meyer would have slept much easier on Friday and Saturday night knowing his No1 flyhalf was fit and in good health for he knows just how vital a good goal-kicker will be in Australasia.
Last year, when Steyn was battling for form, the Boks had a great opportunity to beat the All Blacks in Dunedin, but Steyn had a poor day with the boot and the Boks lost.
The then Bulls man missed three penalties and a conversion to add to the Boks’ kicking horror-show – Francois Steyn also missed two penalties and Johan Goosen one – in the 21-11 defeat.
That’s how crucial having a decent goal-kicker is and Steyn has no equal in South Africa at the moment.
Lambie is really the only other option to play flyhalf and while he’s a very good goal-kicker, he hasn’t got the record Steyn has and if you’d ask anyone who they’d put their money on to slot a last-gasp drop-goal or penalty to win a game in Australasia, Steyn’s name would come up nine times out of 10.
As we’ve seen, playing – and winning – away from home in the Test arena is tough and tries do not come nearly as easily as they do on home soil. Getting two rare away wins then in Brisbane and Auckland over the next two weekends will take some doing, but if the Boks do manage it, you can be sure Steyn will have played a major role. Above any other player, the Bok No10 is the man Meyer’s hopes of winning this year’s title rest.