Durban – Sharks director of rugby Jake White hailed the performance of Frans Steyn following the Sharks' 37-23 victory over the Lions on Saturday, saying his showing at Kings Park was also an eye-opener for the Springbok selectors.
The versatile back, shifted from centre to flyhalf a few hours before the game after Patrick Lambie was taken ill, turned in a match-winning display capped by 17 points, including two penalties from inside his own half.
“I think he was fantastic,” White said afterwards.
“He got told just before kick-off he's going to be at 10 and again he just showed how good he is.
“I've got confidence in him and it's amazing, he just slotted in, did what he had to do and it wasn't just his kicking, it was the way he played the whole game.”
Steyn was also crucial on defence and his boss felt it was coming together at the right time as the 26-year-old seeks a return to the national team, 18 months since he last featured in the green and gold.
“It's the third game in a row he's played 80 minutes and obviously that's very pleasing not only for myself, but I'm sure it's pleasing for the South African selectors as well,” White said.
Lambie, meanwhile, fell ill on Friday night and White said there was no point risking him for the game.
“At this point in time we're not sure what it is,” the Sharks boss explained. “He got sick overnight when he developed swollen glands.
“We're not sure whether it's an outbreak of flu or something, so we weren't going to risk him and decided we were going to keep him in bed today.”
They still coped well against a plucky Lions side, scoring four tries through Paul Jordaan, Cobus Reinach, Odwa Ndungane and Bismarck du Plessis, who scored on the final hooter, to move top of the table.
The visitors did manage two late tries to reduce the gap to seven with just over 10 minutes to play and White admitted the comeback was partly due to his early substitutions, although it was something he thought he could learn from.
“I probably jumped the gun a bit with all the substitutions,” he added. “At 30-9, I think as a coach if you don't have the confidence that you could put guys on then when will you have it?
“Not taking anything away from those that did come on, I think we probably just disrupted the whole rhythm of what we had and then we let them in.
“Once they smelt that, we were pushed backwards and had to defend.”
Lions boss Johan Ackermann praised his players for their ability to fight back.
However, he admitted that their poor first half ultimately cost them.
“It would have been nice to take a point out of it, but it wasn't meant to be and that was probably because we didn't play well enough in the first half,” he said.
“I'm very proud of the way we came back, the guts and character we showed was great, especially from the forwards.” – Sapa