Steyn eyes Bok breakthrough

    2014-03-11 09:12

    Dominic Valentine - Sport24

    Durban - Sharks backline player Francois Steyn's role at flyhalf could be his best chance of breaking back into the Springbok starting line-up.

    In the wake of the Sharks 37-23 victory over the Lions at Kings Park in Durban, Sharks director of rugby Jake White hinted strongly that the Springbok selectors would be forced to stand up and take notice of Steyn’s eye-opening performance.

    "I think he was fantastic," White said afterwards.

    "He got told just before kick-off he's going to be at 10 and again he just showed how good he is.

    "I'm sure it's pleasing for the South African selectors as well," White said.

    Stepping into the flyhalf jersey at the eleventh hour after Patrick Lambie had to withdraw from the match due to tick-bite fever, Steyn kicked seven out of nine goalable kicks with his siege-cannon boot, to claim a personal tally of 17 points, which proved decisive in the match’s outcome.

    The performance went some way to dispelling the notion that he is a just a long-distance specialist from the kicking-tee.

    As it currently stands, Steyn would find it difficult to break into the Springbok starting line-up in the two positions in which most feel he is strongest: inside centre and fullback.

    At inside centre, the position where Steyn was part of a World Cup winning Springbok team in 2007, it is hard to imagine Steyn displacing Springbok captain, and SARU’s 2013 player of the year Jean de Villiers, currently in some of the best form of his life.

    It is equally unlikely that Steyn would easily unseat the Springbok fullback incumbent Willie le Roux, who dazzled South African fans with his X-factor in 2013 on his way to claiming the SARU player’s player-of-the-year award, in the position where Steyn excelled in the Springboks’ victory over the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

    It is also highly doubtful that Steyn would start for the Springboks at outside centre, a position that he has rarely occupied at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level.

    Steyn could again find himself collecting splinters on the Springbok bench in the role of utility back again come the Rugby Championship, despite his strong form, unless he can make his presence felt in Lambie’s absence at flyhalf.

    The flyhalf position under Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has been more hotly-contested than others, with Morné Steyn, Patrick Lambie, Johan Goosen and Elton Jantjies all occupying the role at various times during Meyer’s reign.
    Steyn played flyhalf for the Sharks during his debut season and at the time confessed that No 10, a position he had also played in at Grey College during his schoolboy years, was his preferred jersey.

    Although Steyn initially struggled in the position in 2006 and 2007 when he was picked at flyhalf for the Sharks and occasionally for the Springboks, he has gained a lot of experience under his belt now and continues to show his versatility.

    If Lambie is suffering from tick-bite fever he might struggle to be ready for the Sharks this coming weekend, and whilst it would be wildly premature to hail Steyn as front-runner for the Springbok flyhalf berth after one performance, a strong showing against current Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper in the Sharks’ match against the Reds would certainly provide the Springbok selectors with food for thought.

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