Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has explained why they decided to name Morne Steyn as the replacement flyhalf for the deciding third Test against the British & Irish Lion on Saturday.
Steyn was the surprise pick in the Springbok team to face the Lions in the third and final Test of the series in Cape Town.
The 37-year-old was named among the substitutes as the Springboks reverted to a more conventional five-three split between backs and forwards on the bench, after opting for a six-two split in this past weekend’s win.
When explaining the decision during Tuesday’s team announcement news conference, Bok coach Nienaber said that it came down to a tough decision between Steyn and Elton Jantjies as the backup flyhalf.
“It’s was a toss up between Morne and Elton,” Nienaber said. “Morne played for us in the SA A game and I thought he controlled the game quite well in that game against the British & Irish Lions. Elton was excellent for us in the first Test match, when he came on for Handre when Handre started cramping at the back end of that Test match.
“It was a big toss up. In our discussion, when we went through our selection process, it’s a long season. We are going straight into the Rugby Championship against Argentina next week. Then it’s the Rugby Championship in Australasia and then the end-of-year tour. So it’s also about keeping everybody up to date, giving them game time, trying to spread the load.
“Like I said, we could have put Elton in there. It’s like for like. Both of them were excellent in the outings they had against the Lions.”
The decision means that Steyn will join a rare group in facing the Lions twice in his career, should he take the field. He memorably slotted the winning penalty from over 50 metres in the second Test of the 2009 series, when the Lions last toured South Africa.
“Hopefully it doesn’t come down to that. But that’s a fair comment and one of the things that weighed in Morne’s selection,” Nienaber added. “The fact that he has been there, he has experienced big games like this. He understands the pressure that will be there.
“If you look at the World Cup final, I think the pressure in this game is going to be similar to that. It’s do or die. Between the World Cup final and British & Irish Lions series, it’s as big as it can get. Morne has been there and done it before, in the big game in 2009.”
Nienaber was also keen to emphasise that the decision did not mean the Springbok coaches had lost faith in Jantjies.
“I am not saying that Elton wouldn’t have the big-match temperament. I have seen him do it for us before in big games as well. In 2018 in New Zealand, when we had our first victory there, he came on in the last 20 or 30 minutes and between him and Handre at 10 and 12, they had an unbelievable partnership.
“It’s a long season and we have to make sure that everybody stays sharp and match fit. Elton has done nothing wrong. If you look at his actions in the first Test, you can go through every single action and he was phenomenal.
“It was just the decision that we made and we feel is the best way to go for this Test match.”
Photo: Gallo Images