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
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
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