JOHANNESBURG – When he wore the No 12 Springbok jersey in the World Cup final in 2007 he was a fresh-faced youngster without a fear in the world. Fast forward 12 years and Frans Steyn is a mature, hugely experienced campaigner and a vital cog in coach Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad for this year’s World Cup in Japan. Just this time, the nerves are jangling.
Steyn took over the inside centre position from Jean de Villiers, who got injured early in the tournament in 2007, having been picked by Jake White for the first time the previous year. By the time the World Cup came around a year later Steyn was 20 and had just eight caps to his name. According to White, the blond-haired bomber showed no nerves during the tournament and he would go on to become one of this country’s most travelled and experienced campaigners.
In 2011, aged 24 and with 43 Bok Tests behind him, Steyn was back in the World Cup squad, this time under the guidance of Peter de Villiers. But he didn’t feature in 2015 when Heyneke Meyer was in charge, but roll on 2019 and Steyn is back.
At 32 he’s by no means the oldest in the squad (that honour belongs to Schalk Brits at 38), but having played for the Sharks, Racing Metro, Montpellier and Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan and picked up 60 Test caps along the way, Steyn is a man who’s seen and done it all. But, he admitted this week after being named in the Bok squad for the Japan World Cup the nerves get to him at times nowadays.
“It’s changed ... I didn’t used to get nervous. When you’re young you don’t worry that much, but now I get nervous before big Tests,” he said. “The stress is definitely there nowadays ... my undies have always got a hole in them after a game,” he joked.
“The thing is I’m not going to have another 10 years to make a wrong right ... that’s why I’m more serious about Test rugby now.”