Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - With Elton Jantjies stealing the limelight at the weekend with his record-breaking penalty haul, it is easy to miss the fact that the Springbok incumbent Morne Steyn is honing in on a unique record.
Steyn’s 18 match-winning points against the Sharks for the Vodacom Bulls not only gave his team another victory at Loftus Versfeld and set the tone for their season to come, but it also moved him into third place in the all-time Super Rugby points scoring stats, passing one Andrew Mehrtens on the way.
Steyn now stands on 991 points, just nine short of becoming the first South African player to pass the 1000 point mark, and only the third in the history of the Southern Hemisphere competition.
Steyn is still 40 points behind Melbourne Rebels captain Stirling Mortlock, who holds second position, and almost 300 points behind the trend setter and his All Black counterpart Dan Carter, who has the most points with 1272 in the competition.
But the importance of his boot – remembering he missed two kicks as well on Friday night – are one of the key foundations in the Bulls camp, especially when things weren’t going their way on Friday night.
The Bulls game plan has been much-maligned over the past few seasons, but on Friday night the aerial bombardment primarily played a role because of the knowledge that referees were to be much stricter at the breakdowns.
The idea – and it’s not a new one by any stretch of the imagination – is to play the game in the right areas and wait for the mistakes.
Steyn did his role perfectly in this respect, peppering the Sharks with up and unders that forced them into mistakes and caught them behind the advantage line.
The Bulls forwards, in full flight and physical on their home turf, did the rest, as referee Jonathan Kaplan had little hesitation to give a string of penalties.
And then, in the right positions, the rest was back to type. The Bulls stranglehold pattern offered Steyn the perfect opportunity to slot a few more penalties – taking his tally to 177 in the competition thus far.
The icing on the cake for the home side was the sublime drop – Steyn’s 22nd in Super Rugby that sealed the victory for the Bulls.
Now this coming weekend Steyn heads for his hometown – ironic in the sense that he was snatched by the Bulls scouts to come to Pretoria under the noses of the Cheetahs – where he is likely to reach that milestone.
This weekend was very much about the flyhalves, and how the likes of Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies and Johan Goosen are all on the way up.
But it was also a reminder that Steyn, so comfortable in his kicking role for both the Bulls and the Boks, is not done yet. Those who want to write his playing obituary may have to wait some time yet.