Taupo - Their relationship may have had its ups and downs, but after comparing Frans Steyn to South Africa's Juan Smith, Peter de Villiers has shown a new-found respect for the utility back.
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"Frans has brought a new dimension to our backline play," said De Villiers.
"He actually came in and filled the boots of a Juan Smith to a certain extent."
Smith, recognised as an influential loose-forward on the international stage, withdrew from the national squad prior to the tournament because of an Achilles injury.
After a run at fullback, Steyn was moved to centre, where he has played most of his rugby for his club Racing Metro.
His impressive performances in midfield, in place of the injured Jean de Villiers, has left the Bok coach with a few tough decisions to make in the upcoming weeks.
De Villiers is expected to be available for selection after missing out on the last two games because of a rib cartilage injury sustained in the opening match against Wales.
Getting back into the proverbial saddle is going to be harder than anticipated for De Villiers given Steyn's performances.
"What we lost there (in Smith’s absence), we gained with Frans," said the coach.
"But then again, we will just want to look at who we are playing, and what they offer to us and then make the decisions around Jean and Frans.
"While Jean has all that flair, Frans isn’t short of it, but Jean isn’t that physical at the moment."
Another option for the Bok coach is to stick with Juan de Jongh as back-up to the chosen number 12.
Whichever way the Springbok coach decides to go, there will be a number of disappointed players.
De Villiers said he had a few tough decisions to make as far as injured players like Butch James and Bakkies Botha were concerned.
He said he would like for his match-22 to be settled as they approach the playoffs and is expected to give his final verdict on Monday.
"I think this is now the time of the tournament where you need a full squad, because it will keep me on my toes," said De Villiers.
"It will bring the bad part of my job to the fore, where I have to go to eight players and say 'You will now sit out for the next two or three weeks', but if you don’t have that, it would make the job easy and we don’t want the job to be easy."
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