Steyn 'just a bit different'
Cape Town - It would have made great sense to the rugby
fraternity, for the record, had Frans Steyn been able to schedule his wedding
day for June 30.
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That is the first Saturday after completion of the
three-week Test “window” period and one which features a return to slightly
lower-tier Super Rugby activity ... not only that, but the team Steyn recently
re-signed for, the Sharks, happens to have a bye.
Not if you are Francois Philippus Lodewyk Steyn who -- we
quietly and slightly belatedly learnt from SARU after the second Test against
England on Saturday -- has his nuptials this weekend instead, smack when the
final Test of the series is staged in Port Elizabeth.
Of course there is a very powerful case for saying that
rugby is just another daft ball game, and marriage (with its accompanying, sometimes
delicate logistics, let’s not forget) certainly counts as one key element of
the infinitely bigger picture of life itself.
Mind you, I can imagine many a professional player in the
South African landscape and beyond who might have made at least a cursory
examination of the IRB schedules – available well, well in advance these days –
before pinpointing a date for a wedding, steering clear of certain, obvious
red-letter rugby days.
Of course so many sports are virtually year-round pursuits
nowadays, but there used to be an old, unwritten “rule” or at least phenomenon,
if you like, that prominent cricketers tied the knot in the winter and rugby
players the summer.
We are told that the utility back did alert new Bok coach
Heyneke Meyer as to his marital intentions before this series began, so that’s
And the object of this piece is not to cast judgment on the
wisdom of Steyn’s itinerary: I hope I don’t do that at all, actually.
What I will do is venture that a hullabaloo of some
magnitude might well have broken out had England’s tenacious fightback at
Coca-Cola Park ended in a series-levelling win and the teams instead gone to
Port Elizabeth with everything to play for ... and then news of vital
string-puller Steyn’s absence for the decider, hello, suddenly come to public light!
Thank goodness, from a South African perspective, that this weekend
instead sees a dead-rubber affair, whatever the levels of home-team hunger to
secure a clean sweep.
I’m also going to suggest that, regardless of their rights
or wrongs in a timing sense, the 25-year-old Grey College product’s nuptials
are an extension of a certain single-mindedness we all know Frans Steyn to
It’s just something that comes with his rugby package, and
for the most part I happen to feel it is something worth celebrating rather
They say you can’t and shouldn’t try to bottle free spirits,
and Steyn is a fine case in point.
He reminds me a little of Michael du Plessis in that respect,
another versatile, massively talented and unpredictable character from an
earlier Springbok era ... even if I submit that Steyn has relatively little of
the hot-tempered streak that characterised Du Plessis who, intriguingly, also
went through periods of notably extravagant facial hair.
Carefully managed, coaches would largely get what they
wanted out of Michael, one of a large stable of rugby-starring Du Plessis brothers
mostly associated with a golden period in Western Province’s history.
I suspect there are similarities with Steyn, and perhaps
okaying his wedding intentions was an early, shrewd bit of diplomacy by Meyer,
whatever his own inner feelings about the matter.
Minus exposure to the Bok inner circle I could be wrong
here, but I am inclined to believe that there is no significant element of dislike
or animosity toward Steyn -- whose urgency and industry between the white lines
for the Boks is desperately seldom open to question -- from national
Discerning ones, I reckon, value him for exactly the
assured, singular personality he is, and that little “something different” he
always seems to weigh in with.
Steyn’s never really done things by convention - including
making a decision, still aged only 21, to commit himself to Racing Metro in the
French league for what would be three lucrative years (thought to be worth well
over R7-million per season).
They say French rugby, with its apparently lesser
conditioning requirements and the like, can offer the risk of southern
hemisphere-hailing players falling off the pace a tad.
He might have come home last year, ahead of the World Cup,
looking more than a little lumpy around the midriff, but it did not prevent him
being an outstanding success at inside centre until his injury, and in the current
England series he has been as pivotal as anyone, I reckon, in Goal One of
safely wrapping up the spoils ahead of the third Test.
Indeed, with England dramatically back in the Johannesburg
encounter at 31-27 with some 10 minutes left, and play fluid and volatile, Steyn
made a critical intervention as Ben Foden and several other attackers surged
toward the Bok quarter, plucking the fullback’s attempted chip-ahead from well
above his considerable frame and booting the ball back into their half at a
time when a further English try looked about 60 percent “on” to my mind.
Phew, blushes-sparing job outstandingly done by the Boks’
own, usefully redeployed fullback in the second half.
So perhaps you’ll be inclined to join me in simply saying,
regardless of your thoughts on his diary planning: “All the best for this Saturday,
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