Cape Town – Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said he is “not concerned at all” about Morné Steyn’s form, and believes the Bok flyhalf will come good in the Rugby Championship.
Steyn will start at No 10 in next Saturday’s opening game against Argentina at Newlands, and will hope to rediscover his best form after a few average displays in the England series. But De Villiers said at a press conference in Bellville on Wednesday that it was only Steyn’s goal-kicking that let him down against England. The Bulls pivot slotted 12 out of 22 kicks, while his tactical kicking was also off the mark.
“I tend to disagree with that statement (that Steyn was not at his best). I think that his general play was actually very good. We are so used to him kicking at 90 percent and above, and he missed a couple that we are not used to. That counted against him, but I actually thought that his decision-making was good,” the Bok skipper said.
“Probably the two tries that we scored in that first game was due to him setting up the counter-attack and taking the ball wide, varying it – playing the forwards and playing the backs – so that was pretty good. I think he is in a good place mentally, and he will be back. He kicked well in Super Rugby, so I’m not concerned at all.”
De Villiers also called on the Boks to get back to the level of play they produced in the second England Test in Johannesburg, where they came up with some of the finest attacking rugby from a Bok side in recent years. The 31-year-old centre feels that the extra week of preparation for the Rugby Championship, compared to the five-day period before the England series, will help the Boks to achieve better cohesion in attack against Argentina.
“We didn’t have much time to prepare this year, so you want to stick to a simple gameplan that everyone understands and just focus on that. But in saying that, if you really look at that series, those two tries we scored in the first Test were counter-attacking tries – things that you haven’t seen in a while from a Springbok team. So I would say that that is an improvement,” De Villiers said.
“And the rugby that we played in the first half of the second Test, I thought it was outstanding. There are definitely areas that we can improve on, but as a young and inexperienced team that haven’t been together too long, I thought we showed some good signs. Hopefully we can evolve from that, but in rugby, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Hopefully we can take our opportunities and score tries when we get those opportunities.”
One of the key men in the Bok attack who didn’t feature in the 14-14 draw against England in Port Elizabeth was inside centre Frans Steyn, who got married that weekend. He is back and has looked sharp in training this week, and De Villiers said that the Sharks star will make a big difference to the team.
“Wynand (Olivier) played really well in that third Test, but Frans Steyn is a world-class player. I think he brings a lot to the team, and it’s great to have him back. If he had played for the Sharks in the playoffs, he just would’ve added a hell of a lot as well,” De Villiers said.
The Boks received a boost on the injury front yesterday as lock Eben Etzebeth’s hip problem was deemed to be not serious enough to rule him out of the Newlands Test. Etzebeth visited a specialist in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“Eben has responded very well to treatment thus far, and we are confident that he will be available for the first Test against Argentina,” said team doctor Craig Roberts.
The Boks trained at Westerford High School in Newlands on Wednesday afternoon, where Etzebeth was joined on the sidelines by Sharks players Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel, who are still resting after their long trip from Hamilton following the Super Rugby final.
Bulls flank Jacques Potgieter also didn’t train due to a minor niggle, but will be fit for the Test.
With JP Pietersen having undergone surgery on his broken thumb yesterday, Bryan Habana ran at right wing during practice yesterday, with Sharks flyer Lwazi Mvovo at No 11. Zane Kirchner was at fullback and is set to return to the starting line-up after missing the last two England Tests due to injury. – Cape Times