If the Springboks want to beat the All Blacks for the first time since 2011, coach Heyneke Meyer should pick Frans Steyn at flyhalf this year.
“What is Frans Steyn’s best position?” is a question that is almost as much a part of South African rugby as scoring tries from rolling mauls. But we may finally have the answer to that question when you look at the 2014 version of Steyn.
He has always been one of the most exciting players in South African rugby. He frustrates almost as much as he thrills, but he has brought more joy to Bok fans than he has made them despair.
He has blown hot and cold over the years, but ever since he knocked over those two fantastic long-range drop goals against the Wallabies at Newlands in 2007 as a 20-year-old, there has been something special about Frans Steyn. And the 2014 version could just be the best of them all.
It appears as if he has once and for all shaken off most of the “bad things” in his game. Firstly, he has shed the extra weight that he seemed to be carrying in recent years, and he has worked hard to come back from the serious leg injury he sustained while on tour with the Sharks in New Zealand last year.
And many of those little mistakes that sometimes affected his contribution to matches look to be out of his game this year while playing for the Sharks. Steyn has so much time on the ball and is making good decisions on attack and defence. He has had to step up in difficult situations this season, most notably when Patrick Lambie was withdrawn from the Sharks side due to illness, and Steyn had to start the Reds match at flyhalf.
Then at the weekend, starting No 10 Fred Zeilinga pulled a hamstring and Steyn had to move to the pivot position again.
In both instances, his game management was really good and he has matured as a player – he mixed things up with long fizzing passes to his outside backs with long tactical kicks into the opposition half and taking the ball up himself.
Add in those monster penalties – he nailed two from around the 55-metre mark against the Lions on Saturday – then you’ve got a pretty complete package.
Morné Steyn has been the Bok general since he slotted that series-winning penalty against the British and Irish Lions in 2009, and at his best, he is a very good pivot who has won several games for his province and country, and is apparently continuing in that vein for his new French club Stade Francais.
Morné Steyn almost single-handedly beat the All Blacks in that last Bok win over the Kiwis in 2011, scoring all the points on the day in the 18-5 victory.
But how many times hasn’t he been able to take the Boks over the line against the world champions? The most conspicuous occasion was in 2012 in Dunedin, when Steyn missed a number of penalties.
Johan Goosen has been the main challenger for the Bok No 10 jersey in the last two years, but a number of serious injuries have held back his progress. He is a great talent, but even this year, he has struggled to get going for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby.
The Boks have beaten the All Blacks only once out of the last nine Test matches, in Port Elizabeth in August 2011. Such a poor record cannot be allowed to continue, and coach Meyer knows that he has to put one over New Zealand before next year’s Rugby World Cup in England.
It’s not long to go before then, so it would certainly be worth Meyer’s while to have a proper look at Frans Steyn at No 10 this year – and it must be in the big Tests against the All Blacks and Wallabies, not in the lesser games.
It would also solve the conundrum in midfield, where Jean de Villiers is the Bok captain and Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein and others are all pushing for starting berths.
Who knows, Frans Steyn might just give Dan Carter a fright!
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@1GioAplon: That is 1 of da best rugby games I have ever watch!!i feel 4 the Pukke,but hats off to @ikeytigers unbelievable!! @varsitycup great display
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@sburasithole: The Sharks outside centre was the Man of the Match against the Lions at the weekend.
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