Cape Town - Seven years and two weeks ... that’s how much time will have elapsed between Frans Steyn’s last start for South Africa and his return to the run-on XV against Namibia on Saturday.
A 2007 winner for the Springboks - their lone survivor from then - the World Cup Pool B encounter will also represent his first RWC start since helping grind out a 13-5 victory over Samoa at North Harbour in 2011 ahead of a tournament-ending shoulder injury.
Steyn was in the throes of a lengthy “exile” from the Bok cause when they played the follow-up 2015 World Cup in the United Kingdom.
But since returning to selection favour for the national team in 2017, he has waited patiently - eight appearances as a substitute - for another crack in a starting capacity, something he last experienced back in mid-September 2012.
While the Namibians should not pose too many problems for the much-altered Springboks at City of Toyota Stadium (11:45, SA time), considerable interest will surround the colourful character Steyn’s “proper” comeback for the Boks ... wearing the No 12 jersey in a midfield partnership with Lukhanyo Am.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has been filtering Steyn cautiously back into the picture, generally giving him around 20 minutes of second-half activity in contests this season, although he did not come off the bench at all in the 23-13 defeat to New Zealand last Saturday.
There have been ongoing reservations in some circles around the long-time French-based player’s conditioning, so this start against the minnow southern African neighbours is his opportunity to allay any fears on that front; the hope will be that the Boks’ biggest backline player physically gets through a solid, industrious hour at least.
That would significantly enhance the likelihood that Steyn feature more regularly as a starter as the tournament progresses - he is a bubbling-under option at both inside centre and fullback, especially if conditions suit his style of play which includes that raking kicking ability both out of hand and off the tee.
To confirm just how much time has passed since the now 32-year-old last began a Bok Test, it is worth looking at that line-up on September 15, 2012, some 366 weeks ago: a clash with the All Blacks (eventual trophy winners) in the inaugural Rugby Championship in Dunedin.
The Boks, who later ended third of the four teams, made a good fist of things as clear underdogs, being in the contest right to the death: it was 18-11 in NZ favour when an 81st-minute penalty by Aaron Cruden finally put the game beyond doubt at 21-11 to Richie McCaw’s outfit.
Steyn had been allied in midfield with now-retired captain Jean de Villiers, and none of the rest of the backline remain in Bok service to this day: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar.
In the pack to play Namibia, though, flank Francois Louw and loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira are survivors from the Dunedin date.
The rest of the forward unit had been made up in the 2012 tussle of Duane Vermeulen (in the current squad but sitting out Saturday), Willem Alberts, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss.
Should Frans Steyn, like several of those players, instead be a Bok “pensioner” in 2019?
Saturday should go some way to determining just how much shelf life remains in the big fellow ...
15 Johan Tromp, 14 Chad Plato, 13 JC Greyling, 12 Peter John Walters, 11 Lesley Klim, 10 Cliven Loubser, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Adriaan Booysen, 7 Muharua Katjijeko, 6 Thomasau Forbes, 5 Tjiuee Uanivi (captain), 4 Johan Retief, 3 AJ de Klerk, 2 Louis van der Westhuizen, 1 Desiderius Sethie
Substitutes: 16 Obert Nortje, 17 Andre Rademeyer, 18 Johannes Coetzee, 19 Prince Gaoseb, 20 Janco Venter, 21 Wian Conradie, 22 Helarius Axasman Kisting, 23 Johan Deysel
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Schalk Brits (captain), 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Steven Kitshoff, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Eben Etzebeth, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Damian de Allende, 23 Cheslin Kolbe
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