Bok flyhalf’s surprise Oz nod
Cape Town – It is a clear testament to his resurgent
confidence and creativity in 2013 that often-criticised Springbok flyhalf Morne
Steyn has earned the No 10 jersey in a Castle Rugby Championship team of the
tournament picked in Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Thursday chose Steyn
alongside three other Boks – Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis and Eben
Etzebeth – for their 2013 tournament form-based XV.
“Selector” and regular scribe Paul Cully wrote: “Had Aaron
Cruden or Beauden Barrett been able to get another 80 minutes under their belts
this choice would have been different, but Steyn remains a superbly consistent
accumulator of points.
“He has developed his game, too, bringing width to the Boks’
Steyn would have been a long way off the radar for such a
team – probably even one assembled from South Africa – in last season’s maiden
four-nation competition when the Boks finished a disappointing third with a
flimsy two wins to show.
But not only did Heyneke Meyer’s charges take the tournament
to the wire in 2013, they scored plenty of tries even with the supposedly
formulaic Steyn pulling the strings at No 10, ended worthy runners-up to the
All Blacks and doubled their win tally to four.
The former Bulls favourite, now plying his club trade in
France, also ended leading points-scorer with 88, although some critics –
former Bok coach Nick Mallett among them – still question his defence in a busy
Cully’s side is unsurprisingly littered with New Zealanders
– 10 of them.
He finds no place, gallingly, for any compatriots after one
of Australia’s worst seasons of under-achievement, with even the bottom-placed
Argentineans snatching a single berth in the form of powerhouse tighthead prop
He says he found it so hard to separate exciting No 4 locks
Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and Brodie Retallick of New Zealand that he felt
compelled to pick both, and trumpets their respective strides this year as “the
birth of a great rivalry”.
Cully’s team in the
Herald: Israel Dagg (NZ), Ben Smith (NZ), Conrad Smith (NZ), Jean de
Villiers (SA), Julian Savea (NZ), Morne Steyn (SA), Aaron Smith (NZ), Kieran
Read (NZ), Richie McCaw (NZ), Liam Messam (NZ), Brodie Retallick (NZ), Eben
Etzebeth (SA), Juan Figallo (Arg), Bismarck du Plessis (SA), Tony Woodcock
A Sport24 selection would not have differed too markedly,
though perhaps with Bryan Habana running neck and neck with Savea for the No 11
shirt, returning maestro Fourie du Preez similarly heavily challenging Smith
for scrumhalf, and specialist No 5 Sam Whitelock possibly eclipsing NZ compatriot
Retallick as second-row partner for the sterling Etzebeth.
Earlier this week, domestic website www.Rugby365.com named a
XV perhaps a little optimistically featuring six players each from the
Springboks and All Blacks, with the only “outsiders” being both Pumas props,
Figallo and Marcos Ayerza, and the swift Wallaby open-sider Michael Hooper.
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