Mind Games: Saru must resolve Steyn impasse before World Cup

2014-08-11 15:00

The only conclusion to the increasingly mysterious saga of Frans Steyn is that it is “curiouser and curiouser”*.

Although the versatile Steyn is a player who possesses the X-factor and is feared by South Africa’s opponents, he appears to have been banished when it comes to being selected for the Springboks.

Steyn allegedly left the Bok camp in a huff ahead of the June tests against Wales and Scotland over what were claimed to be contractual issues.

The deafening silence from all quarters since seems to suggest he has been debarred.

When the national squad was announced recently for the forthcoming Rugby Championship, details – such as injuries or foreign commitments – were provided for all those on national coach Heyneke Meyer’s radar.

But there was no mention of Steyn.

Enquiries to the SA Rugby Union (Saru), as well as the player’s agent Gerrie Swart, failed to provide clarity over whether Steyn’s Springbok days are indeed over.

Saru chief executive Jurie Roux was not available to discuss the matter and responded via the union’s PR department that “the bottom line is that Frans asked not to be considered and it will be up to him to indicate when he wishes to be in contention once more – then up to the selectors, of course”.

Swart referred me to the press release at the time of Steyn’s departure from the team in Durban on June 12, in which it was stated that none of the parties would comment any further “and we will honour that”.

At the time, Roux said Saru had been “placed in a very difficult position” because of Steyn’s request to leave the Springbok squad.

“We have an agreement with players in respect of the rights of both employer and employee not to publicly discuss any contractual situation and I will not breach that.

“However, allegations have been made that affect the reputation of [Saru] and Frans Steyn as an employee and person, and they cannot go unchallenged.

“It is alleged that Saru breached a promise to Frans in terms of his contract. I can confirm that there was a dispute over mechanisms by which one element of Frans’ Springbok remuneration was to be paid.

“That issue was addressed. “Some minor details remain to be sorted out but they are not of such a scale as to be a cause for a major upheaval. “Out of respect for Frans’ wishes, whatever other considerations may have been on his mind are not for me to discuss.”

But the fact that Saru has taken no further disciplinary action over what could be seen as an act of blatant insubordination suggests there is more to this than meets the eye.

Steyn, who leaves soon to join Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus, clearly believes he has been wronged, and feels so strongly about what increasingly appears to have been a serious cockup by Saru that he is willing to walk away from something that has defined his entire life.

Although just 27, he has accumulated 53 test caps and boasts a 71.7% win rate in those games. His worth is indicated by the fact that he has made starts in five positions (10, 11, 12, 13 and 15) and has scored 132 points.

There is no doubt he would add value in next year’s World Cup, especially at inside centre, where he served with distinction when the Boks won the World Cup in 2007.

It is incomprehensible, in light of all the other players being drawn in from other countries, that more has not been done to resolve the impasse.

There’s something fishy about the whole situation and I suspect we have not heard the last of it.

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