Boks: Steyn’s year of ‘jail’ ends

2015-08-28 12:31
Morne Steyn (Getty)

Cape Town - Around  51 weeks after Heyneke Meyer suddenly and uncharacteristically lost patience with him, expect Morne Steyn to be officially handed his “pardon” in Durban on Friday evening (18:00).

That is when the national coach is expected to confirm that the stalwart, 31-year-old flyhalf from Stade Francais has made the Springbok squad cut for RWC 2015.

The move will come just over a week short of the one-year anniversary (on September 6) of his costly error in Perth in failing to find touch with a late, supposedly relieving penalty against Australia.

South Africa were defending desperately in the dying minutes as they clung to a 23-17 advantage in the Castle Rugby Championship 2014 nail-biter - Bryan Habana was controversially in the sin bin as the clock ticked down - and just setting up a Bok lineout to take them vitally to the other end of the park was the requirement from Steyn.

Instead, in a rare moment of fallibility from the metronomic all-round kicker, he failed to punt the ball out and it is history now that very shortly afterwards, cashing in on the sparkly gift, Rob Horne was gleefully in for the decisive try as the Aussies won 24-23.

Former Bok coach Nick Mallett merely echoed the thoughts of thousands of gutted Bok supporters that day as he described it as a “dreadful mistake”.

Meyer wasn’t exactly over the moon, either ... and after a prolonged spell in his tenure in which he had backed Steyn to the hilt despite fairly frequent wails of protest, he effectively banished the pivot to a penal colony; a fresh-faced Handre Pollard made his encouraging debut against the All Blacks in Wellington a week later.

We knew an olive branch of sorts had already been issued several weeks ago, with the coach restoring the dead-eye place-kicker, yet usually wary attacker, to his extended pre-World Cup training party.

But that spirit of absolution will be properly confirmed on Friday, as Meyer finds it impossible to resist taking this famed banker in points accumulation off the tee to the tournament.

It is probably still only going to be as “No 3” flyhalf, given the firm likelihood that both Pollard and Pat Lambie will remain above him in the pecking order in the United Kingdom.

Steyn’s best chance of a gig could be if he plays against a pool-stage rank minnow here or there, or if one of the primary two picks up an injury and he inches forward to match-day back-up man, lurking usefully on the bench - certainly not the worst player to have nearby if an autumnal tempest is raging on an English pitch and the game is on a bit of a knife-edge.

His green light for the squad will be further evidence that Meyer is among the many coaches who swear experience is the key factor at World Cups.

Former Bulls pin-up Steyn ticks that box not only because of his increased familiarity to European conditions these days, but also the 59 Test caps already to his name, starting with a substitute appearance against the British and Irish Lions at Kings Park in the victorious 2009 series, when versatile Ruan Pienaar (going to RWC 2015 as well, though earmarked as a scrumhalf) was the start-out No 10.

If you were going to be making a Western right now featuring a gun-slinging Morne Steyn beneath a Stetson, you would simply have to call it “The Forgiven”, wouldn’t you?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


Read more on:    springboks  |  rwc 2015  |  morne steyn  |  rugby

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