Rugby Championship

Barnes defends Steyn

2012-09-25 22:29
Morné Steyn (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - Australian utility-back Berrick Barnes on Tuesday came out in support of under-fire Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn ahead of Saturday's Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld.

"I have a lot of respect for Morné and I’ve played against him for six to seven years now and probably three or four at Test level," Barnes said.

"There are few players who come through in the clutch for you like him.

"He is one of them and he’s done that for a number of years."

Barnes said it was normal for players' careers to go through an ebb and flow.

"Just because you have one poor outing with the boot, we’ve all been there, and I’ve had my fair share as well," he said.

"It will be interesting to see what Heyneke (Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer) does there.

"So he’s (Meyer) got other options up his sleeve there with the number of young guys showing a lot of promise." Meyer has been under pressure to replace Steyn, who has recently been struggling with his goal kicking.

The Bok coach could surprise by selecting either in-form Lions player Elton Jantjies or the talented Cheetahs pivot Johan Goosen at flyhalf when he announces his team on Wednesday.

Barnes, however, said he expected Steyn to wear the No 10 jersey at his favourite hunting ground at Loftus Versfeld.

"He’s got a lot of history in Pretoria, he’s kicked bloody well there over the last how long years," said Barnes, who expects to either play at fullback or flyhalf for the Wallabies.

"You’d expect him to start, but we will adapt if they don’t."

The Springboks have also come under scrutiny for employing a kick-and-chase game plan, but Barnes felt it was a strategy the South Africans used effectively.

"No side tests you as well as the Springboks do in term of their kicking game and their chase," he said.

"They're one of the best chasing teams in the world as well and that is something as a fullback you’ve got to deal with."

Barnes believed South Africa's kicking game was one of their strong points and it was unlikely to change.

"It is a huge element of winning Test match rugby is how well you can kick to exit you own half," he said.

"Traditionally the Boks have been extremely good at these sort of areas and it is one of the things that allowed them to dominate a lot of games."

Meanwhile, the Wallabies' build-up to the match have been unsettled with six players suffering a bout of gastroenteritis.

The team's media manager Matt McIlraith said Nathan Sharpe, James Slipper, Scott Higginbotham, Ben Alexander, Sitaleki Timani and Liam Gill were all unable to train due to the stomach bug.

The tourists were dealt another blow after hooker Stephen Moore suffered a hamstring strain.The Wallabies will also be without hooker Stephen Moore, who strained a hamstring. McIlraith said uncapped Reds hooker James Hanson was on his way to South Africa to cover for Moore.

Australia will announce their team on Thursday afternoon.

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