Steyn back for final Test

2009-09-10 00:00

GOLD COAST — Francois Steyn has a mega-boot to kick the Springboks out of trouble, which is why coach Peter de Villiers yesterday recalled him to the starting line-up for what he hopes will be the decisive Tri-Nations Test against New Zealand in Hamilton on Saturday.

The most pertinent feature of last weekend’s 21-6 defeat at the hands of the Wallabies was that the Springboks spent long periods of the game trapped deep in their own territory, unable to dig themselves out of the situation.

Steyn, however, can send the ball soaring 70 metres upfield and will provide an added presence at fullback where Ruan Pienaar has been steady, but has not played with great conviction in the last two Test matches.

Pienaar can still make an impact off the bench and, with Steyn playing his last Test before departing for France, the one-time scrumhalf can also contemplate a rapid return to the number 15 jersey.

But he has not provided convincing proof that fullback is his natural position and it was not a hard sell for De Villiers to justify his only change to the squad.

“We’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible. But there is a bit of horses-for-courses in this selection and Frans can play a major role in Hamilton with his boot,” De Villiers said. “It’s not a shift in game plan — we expect Dan Carter to kick more and with Frans we can put ourselves back in position and be able to dictate play.”

With the All Blacks leering malevolently at the Springbok scrum, there had been speculation that De Villiers would look to bolster the set-piece by including two props amongst the reserves.

In fact, such is the versatility of this Springbok team that he could have gone with a 5-2 split on the bench with Gurthrö Steenkamp, Jannie du Plessis, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger and Ryan Kankowski, Adrian Jacobs and Pienaar providing tremendous impact players, possibly solving the Boks’ tendency to fade in the final quarter and allowing them to maintain the sort of pace they struggled to keep up in Brisbane.

“I decided to go with the conventional 4-3 split because we still have a very versatile bench, with several players capable of covering more than one position,” De Villiers explained.

Those unwisely calling for the coach to ring the changes after the flat performance last weekend will be disappointed Schalk Burger is not back in the starting line-up, but the hero of the last Tri-Nations triumph is not yet back to the form of yesteryear after being out of action for substantial portions of the season.

Besides, the Brisbane match was the first one this year in which Heinrich Brüssow has not dominated and the Free Stater certainly deserves to keep his place in the starting team.

The best news for the Springboks is that ace wing Bryan Habana, the key missing component in the Boks’ kick-and-chase last weekend, has been named to start, although De Villiers said the medical team will need to spend the rest of the week working on his hamstring.

The other injury concern is Pierre Spies, but the coach said he is confident he will be fit for the Springboks’ last match of the Tri-Nations.

The Test kicks off at 9.35 am on Saturday.

Springbok team:

15-Francois Steyn, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13-Jaque Fourie, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Morné Steyn, 9-Fourie du Preez, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Juan Smith, 6-Heinrich Brüssow, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Bakkies Botha, 3-John Smit, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.

Reserves: 16-Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17-Jannie du Plessis, 18-Danie Rossouw, 19-Schalk Burger, 20-Enrico Januarie, 21-Adrian Jacobs, 22-Ruan Pienaar.

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