Discarded Steyn still in contention for place in Boks squad for end-of-year tour to Ireland, UK

2012-10-09 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Irrespective of the fitness status of incumbent Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen (knee ligament), recently discarded Morné Steyn probably remains firmly in contention for a place in the Bok squad for the traditional end-of-year tour.

Indeed, coach Heyneke Meyer is unlikely to be too deterred from restoring the experienced Bulls customer to his plans even if his Currie Cup franchise opt to persevere with the prolific Louis Fouché — comfortably the leading points-scorer in the competition — in the flyhalf spot for the Highveld derby against the Lions at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday.

The Bulls, in fifth spot entering the final series of round-robin matches, are bidding desperately to make the semi-finals cut and it is not yet clear which No. 10 they will prefer for the potentially decisive clash.

But whatever happens on that front, Meyer — who was at pains to mention in dropping Steyn recently that he was convinced the seasoned Test player would battle his way back — may well want him for the three-match tour of Ireland and the UK.

Although there are plenty of critics who would consider a reprieve for the less-than-mercurial pivot a significant backward step, events at FNB Stadium on Saturday, where the Boks were drubbed 32-16 by the All Blacks, may only have strengthened the coach’s belief that the 28-year-old is worth having in the travel party’s midst.

Largely undoubted though their talents are, both the 20-year-old Goosen and Elton Jantjies, the man who replaced him under trying circumstances before half-time, demonstrated some signs of their inexperience at this level en route to the heavy reverse at the hands of the world champions.

There remains, too, a credible case for saying that Steyn is a potential “horses for courses” asset when the Boks head for the heavier pitches and likely soggy, frigid climes of the British Isles early next month.

One thing firmly on his side is his knowledge of such conditions — Goosen, in particular, and Jantjies are infinitely better schooled in the demands of dry, hard surfaces at high altitude.

On Saturday, the Boks seemed to get caught between two scripts: they were visibly keen to build on the new, more ball-in-hand approach that reaped strong benefits against Australia at Loftus a week earlier, but at the same time, their defensive shape unravelled rather badly against a New Zealand side who only underlined their flair for counter-attacking and turnover opportunism.

If Steyn gets any chance in the next fortnight or so to confirm that he is regaining his place-kicking prowess, especially, then his hopes of earning an overseas ticket with the Boks will only blossom.

Especially when the elements conspire to make an adventurous spectacle near-impossible, a no-frills flyhalf capable of dominating both through tactical kicking and metronomic ability off the tee becomes a priceless asset in the northern hemisphere if forward supremacy is being achieved — and South Africa do look sprightly at present in that department, for all their array of warts elsewhere.

Of course, a contrary view would be that the Boks need to genuinely “invest” now in a young No. 10 for a brighter future and accept that growth pains will be inevitable as that player — or players — acclimatises to differing environments across the rugby planet. But my money is strongly on Steyn to make the squad mix, at the very least …

The Boks — pleasingly, considering how some of their ranks have been overworked across the fixtures spectrum this year — play only three more Tests this year, as opposed to the five each remaining for chief southern rivals the All Blacks and Wallabies.

November 10: Ireland, Dublin

November 17: Scotland, Edinburgh

November 24: England, London

Discarded Steyn still in contention for place in Boks squad for end-of-year tour to Ireland, UK

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