Steyn back to beef up Bok backline for Wales Test

2010-11-09 00:00

THE addition of Frans Steyn to the tour squad has added to coach Peter de Villiers’ backline options, but the Springbok coach now faces the problem of how to use the young player’s talents most effectively.

Springbok eyes were smiling — and, no doubt, bloodshot after hours’ of celebration — when they left Ireland on Sunday. They now have to keep their feet, and those of coach De Villiers, on the ground as they look ahead to Saturday’s clash with Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The rain of Saturday night and the power of the Springbok pack combined to blunt the Irish backline and we still cannot be certain if fullback Zane Kirchner has the makings of an outside centre. But Steyn’s arrival will at least make it unnecessary for De Villiers to field a player out of position against Wales.

The Welsh Test falls in the November window period for internationals and Racing Metro have been forced to release Steyn who now provides De Villiers with a specialist centre to partner Jean de Villiers in midfield.

Of course, Adi Jacobs, an outside centre by trade, should have been alongside De Villiers against Ireland, but the Bok coach, and the senior players, obviously believe the chunky Shark is not yet match fit after his six-month break.

There were also conflicting messages coming out of the Bok camp on Saturday night regarding Jean de Villiers’s fitness. Coach De Villiers said his inside-centre had left the field on the hour after aggravating a groin injury, while the next day team doctor Craig Roberts said the player had come through the game well and was “just being managed” when he was taken off.

Jean de Villiers and Steyn, when he is not at fullback or flyhalf, are both inside-centres but the Bok coach could use either at 13 in place of Kirchner.

Nothing, of course, can be taken for granted and the Bok coach could just as easily opt for Steyn at fullback — where he played in the Tri-Nations — with Gio Aplon moving to the wing in place of Bjorn Basson.

Other changes appear unlikely. Pat Lambie, in his short time on the field on Saturday and by attacking the gainline, quickly brought some attacking spark from the Bok backs but he cannot match the superb goal-kicking skills of Morne Steyn. And Deon Stegmann, making his debut on the flank, was the quietest of the Bok forwards but is unlikely to be dropped after one game.

Number eight Pierre Spies had one of his more productive games of the year but it would be of more than passing interest to see Willem Alberts, in the company of a massive pack, rampaging his way through opposition ranks at some stage on this tour.

Captain Victor Matfield said that the Boks had tailored their game to the rain of Dublin and they would adopt a more expansive approach in better conditions.

The Welsh, after seeing what the Boks did to the Irish pack in the wet, are likely to opt for the Millennium Stadium roof to be closed on Saturday and the conditions will certainly be better than they were in Dublin.

“It was important for us to win the Irish game and we played the right game, but the conditions should be drier in Cardiff and I really do believe we have a talented backline,” said Matfield.

“Guys like Gio Aplon and Bjorn Basson have a lot of pace to burn. I am looking forward to seeing what they can do in more suitable conditions.”

Steve Walsh, the New Zealand referee now based in Australia, will handle the Test which kicks off at 4.30 pm.

Walsh (38), who battled problems with alcohol, quit refereeing for nearly a year but returned to action in this year’s Super 14 and now makes his return to international rugby.

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