JOHANNESBURG – Veteran rugby traveller Francois Steyn is as impressive a player as ever, according to Springbok backs coach Mzwandile Stick.
Steyn was one of nine overseas-based players called into the Bok squad by coach Rassie Erasmus ahead of the Test season. The Boks kick off their Rugby Championship campaign with a match against the Wallabies at Ellis Park on Saturday and it is expected Steyn will have some part to play in the match.
The 32-year-old Steyn made his debut back in 2006 and has played 56 Tests for the Boks in the last 13 years. Stick said Steyn was a “special rugby player” who’d be considered in a number of backline positions this season.
“The same questions that are being asked about Frans now, about what position he’ll be considered in, were asked back in 2007,” said Stick. “He’s a special rugby player, and can fit in at flyhalf, centre and fullback. He’s a natural footballer and it’s good to have him in the team.
“He comes in now with 12 years’ experience ... and he still looks good. He looks like a 21-year-old he’s so fresh. He’s fitted in well and easily and brings plenty of experience.”
Steyn is expected to play off the bench against the Wallabies this weekend, and possibly also feature next week in the Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
Almost certain to be handed a start on Saturday is rookie No 9 Herschel Jantjies, who’s expected to make his debut alongside another Jantjies, Elton.
“Life is all about opportunities. He was given a chance by the Stormers and he grabbed it. His performances have been consistently good this year and that’s what stands out for me.
“He’s been clinical in his basics; his service has been good. He’s also sniped around the fringes when the opportunities have been there and scored some brilliant tries and for his size he’s made some big tackles. He’s got the potential to become one of the great scrumhalves of this country.”
Stick though lamented the loss of dynamic wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, who’ll miss the next few matches because of a problematic hamstring. He, however, said the Boks were well covered at wing.
“Aphiwe had a great season last year, and he’s got X-factor, and it’s not nice to lose him, but we trust all our players. We’ve got a lot of talent in the outside backs, like (Cheslin) Kolbe, (S'bu) Nkosi and (Makazole) Mapimpi.”
Meanwhile, expect lock Eben Etzebeth to be named captain of the Boks for the Wallabies Test when Rassie Erasmus names his lineup today. He’s likely to be joined in the second row by Lood de Jager who only made his return to top-flight rugby last week, for the Bulls, after sitting out several months with an injury.
Probable Springboks team:
Warrick Gelant, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Herschel Jantjies, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Beast Mtawarira.@jacq_west