Pretoria - The season ending injury to Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen has suddenly thrust Morne Steyn back into the spotlight, with his match form and preparation likely to be scrutinised from every conceivable angle over the next few weeks.
According to the supersport.com website, Steyn was purposely rested from the last two games of the Rugby Championship after a poor run of form, but returned to Loftus Versfeld on Monday to start working again with his long-time kicking coach Vlok Cilliers in preparation for a possible return to action for the Blue Bulls in the final rounds of the Absa Currie Cup.
While the Blue Bulls have not given any indication whether or not they intend to play Steyn, they must be tempted. Rooted at the bottom of the Currie Cup log at the moment, they need to beat the defending champion Golden Lions at Coca-Cola Park this weekend to not face a promotion-relegation battle in the coming weeks.
Steyn was always favoured to play a role on the November tour, especially with the heavy underfoot and weather making conditions for a flyhalf who can control the game with his boot, an almost necessity in any team touring up North.
But Goosen’s injury, which will see him out for at least six months, will mean that coach Heyneke Meyer has to alter his plans after indicating he wanted to rotate both Goosen and Elton Jantjies on the tour to allow them to settle into the position.
Steyn had a long first kicking session with Cilliers on Monday, and his provincial coach Pine Pienaar said the final decision on whether or not to play him will be made in terms of what is best for the team, and not necessarily individuals.
Pienaar purposely sidestepped questions on whether or not Steyn would play this weekend, a decision that will be keenly watched by the rest of the country.
“All seven of our Springboks are available for selection. Every one of them is positive at the moment, and are keen to do their part for us for the rest of the Currie Cup tournament,” Pienaar said.
“We know we are sitting in a must-win situation. That is our priority and focus point that we are preparing with this week. We know we need to win this game against the Lions. For that reason, my decisions on team selection will be on what’s best for the team and not for individuals. We need to give ourselves every single chance we can to win this game.”
Apart from Steyn, Pienaar said he hadn’t even looked at specific positions yet, meaning there is also no word whether Francois Hougaard will return to his more favoured No 9 position or continue to play on the wing.
“We have to take into account the influence that the returning Boks can have on the side. But as I said, they are all excited about being back, and that is positive. We are privileged to receive so many Springboks back, but the team dynamic is the most important thing to consider when I decide how it should look.
“We never spoke on Monday about specific positions. We did have a long morning session where we allowed the players to train in every possible position. I have a few plans in my head, but I will first need to sit down with Dewald (Potgieter, captain) and chat to the players before we decide which direction we will head in.”
Either way, the task facing the Bulls is a tough one, and it is an interesting debate whether Steyn should be rested further or whether he should play.
One thing is clear, Goosen’s injury adds extra pressure, and makes like much more difficult for Bok coach Heyneke Meyer.