Cape Town - Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn feels he is far more relaxed going into this international season than he was before he made his debut against the British and Irish Lions last year.
The Bulls flyhalf was a crucial figure in the impressive Bulls win in the 2009 Super 14, and perhaps played a more notable role from an individualistic point of view. Certainly this was not a year where he slotted over drop-goals with the impunity that he managed it against Crusaders in the 2009 semi-final and the Bulls used a more all-encompassing game-plan this past season.
But Steyn believes that he is more in control of his own game now than he was, and this might have the impact of helping him off-set the drawback of going into the new international campaign without his regular partner Fourie du Preez at his side.
Not for nothing is Du Preez regarded as the best scrumhalf in the world, perhaps even the best rugby player on the planet, and memories of one game where Du Preez was not there for the duration – the final Test against the Lions in Johannesburg last July – should sit uncomfortably with Bok supporters.
Steyn though reckons experience has made him a better player than he was then. And this season he is also a certain starter, whereas last year he started the international season as back-up to Ruan Pienaar and only got his opportunity as a replacement.
“I am feeling a lot more comfortable with my overall game than I did last year,” said Steyn in Cape Town on Thursday.
“I feel like I’m starting to express myself more freely, and hopefully that will help me with the Springboks.”
Steyn agrees that it is going to take time for him to adjust to a new halfback partner in the form of Ricky Januarie, and there is no doubt that there will be more pressure on him to front the field kicking, particularly as the booming boot of Frans Steyn at the back is also no longer there.
But while Januarie is a different style of player to Du Preez, Steyn says he is confident that the new halfback partnership will work out.
“It’s a bit unfair to compare anyone to Fourie as Fourie is undoubtedly one of the best tactical kickers in world rugby. But Ricky is a good tactical kicker in his own right so I don’t think there will have to be as many changes as people expect there to be.
“It will take time for us to settle, but hopefully we can start well against France this weekend and then build from there.”