Bok flyhalf’s surprise Oz nod

Morne Steyn (Getty)
Morne Steyn (Getty)
Cape Town – It is a clear testament to his resurgent confidence and creativity in 2013 that often-criticised Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn has earned the No 10 jersey in a Castle Rugby Championship team of the tournament picked in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Thursday chose Steyn alongside three other Boks – Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis and Eben Etzebeth – for their 2013 tournament form-based XV.

“Selector” and regular scribe Paul Cully wrote: “Had Aaron Cruden or Beauden Barrett been able to get another 80 minutes under their belts this choice would have been different, but Steyn remains a superbly consistent accumulator of points.

“He has developed his game, too, bringing width to the Boks’ backline.”

Steyn would have been a long way off the radar for such a team – probably even one assembled from South Africa – in last season’s maiden four-nation competition when the Boks finished a disappointing third with a flimsy two wins to show.

But not only did Heyneke Meyer’s charges take the tournament to the wire in 2013, they scored plenty of tries even with the supposedly formulaic Steyn pulling the strings at No 10, ended worthy runners-up to the All Blacks and doubled their win tally to four.

The former Bulls favourite, now plying his club trade in France, also ended leading points-scorer with 88, although some critics – former Bok coach Nick Mallett among them – still question his defence in a busy channel.

Cully’s side is unsurprisingly littered with New Zealanders – 10 of them.

He finds no place, gallingly, for any compatriots after one of Australia’s worst seasons of under-achievement, with even the bottom-placed Argentineans snatching a single berth in the form of powerhouse tighthead prop Juan Figallo.

He says he found it so hard to separate exciting No 4 locks Eben Etzebeth of South Africa and Brodie Retallick of New Zealand that he felt compelled to pick both, and trumpets their respective strides this year as “the birth of a great rivalry”.

Cully’s team in the Herald: Israel Dagg (NZ), Ben Smith (NZ), Conrad Smith (NZ), Jean de Villiers (SA), Julian Savea (NZ), Morne Steyn (SA), Aaron Smith (NZ), Kieran Read (NZ), Richie McCaw (NZ), Liam Messam (NZ), Brodie Retallick (NZ), Eben Etzebeth (SA), Juan Figallo (Arg), Bismarck du Plessis (SA), Tony Woodcock (NZ).

A Sport24 selection would not have differed too markedly, though perhaps with Bryan Habana running neck and neck with Savea for the No 11 shirt, returning maestro Fourie du Preez similarly heavily challenging Smith for scrumhalf, and specialist No 5 Sam Whitelock possibly eclipsing NZ compatriot Retallick as second-row partner for the sterling Etzebeth.

Earlier this week, domestic website named a XV perhaps a little optimistically featuring six players each from the Springboks and All Blacks, with the only “outsiders” being both Pumas props, Figallo and Marcos Ayerza, and the swift Wallaby open-sider Michael Hooper.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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