Steyn looking for a 'big one'
Johannesburg - Francois Steyn is happy to see the Lions back in Vodacom Super Rugby – but he has warned that the competition returnees can expect no mercy from his Sharks team when the team’s clash in a derby at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday evening.
According to the supersport.com website, “I am happy for them that they are back from the wilderness, but we are looking forward to putting in a really big performance against them. We want to do ourselves proud by putting in a big one,” said Steyn to Durban reporters on Monday afternoon.
Indeed, if there was a time for a statement from the Sharks, this match is probably it. All the other teams in the South African conference have lost at each once, and after the Lions went down to the Vodacom Bulls last weekend and with the Crusaders likely to beat the DHL Stormers earlier on Saturday, this is an opportunity for the Sharks to put lots of daylight between themselves and the rest.
A win over the Lions would mean that while they remain unbeaten, the rest of the teams in the South African conference would all have lost twice. Although it is still early days in the competition, that would mean that the pressure was squarely on the Sharks’ local rivals to make up ground, and the pressure will be on them.
If that came to pass, it would be a far cry from the situation the Sharks have found themselves in during some previous seasons, when the Sharks have found themselves on a knock-out footing from around the halfway point of the competition.
Steyn, now 26 and no longer the youngster in the team that he was when he made his debut for the Springboks back in 2006, says he is enjoying his rugby as if he was still a “laaitie”, and puts that down to the influence of his old Bok mentor, Sharks director of rugby Jake White. It was White who first selected him to the national team when he was still a teenager, and Steyn enjoys knowing he is backed.
“When you have had lot of injuries, just to run freely again is fun and when you have no niggles you get into form much quicker. I am feeling very good about my game after struggling so much last year,” said Steyn.
“Jake was the one who first gave me a chance at the Boks, so I will always be thankful towards him. It’s nice to be at a place where the coach really understands you. I’m enjoying it and hopefully that will produce the form he wants.”
The Sharks are coming back from their bye in the Lions game, and it will be interesting to see what impact the week off has had on them. By all accounts White drove them hard and unrelentingly in the off-season and in the pre-season and the four days he gave them off from rugby would have been welcomed.
White admitted that he saw “dead legs” on the field towards the end of the recent match against the Hurricanes, and the break might have freshened those legs up – something that might spell trouble for the Lions.
The Sharks team will be finalised on Thursday but with all the top players available it is not expected to change much from the side that laboured a big before winning quite comprehensively against the Hurricanes