Former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has backed Morne Steyn to prove his doubters wrong when he makes his Test rugby comeback in the Lions series.
Steyn was the surprise selection when he was named on the Springbok bench for the third and decisive Test against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
The Bulls player had already turned 37 when the Lions series commenced. Can he really be expected to deliver at that level of intensity?
Heyneke Meyer, who coached Steyn at the Bulls, Boks and Stade Francais believes that the player’s age shouldn’t factor into the debate.
“He reminds me of Jonny Wilkinson in terms of his attitude and work ethic – and like Wilkinson he’s had a long and successful career,” Meyer says.
“In all the years I have coached him, he’s probably missed four or five training sessions. He has never really had a serious injury. That’s incredible given the nature of a collision sport like rugby.
“Fitness is a big measurement, and Morne is still right up there. He’s simply a freak of nature. Age is not part of this equation.”
Some players let themselves go when playing abroad, especially in France where conditioning standards aren’t always a priority. Steyn is an individual who prefers to set his own fitness goals.
“I’ve always made a point of looking after my body,” he says. “Stretching is so important. I’m not a gym or weights freak. I place an emphasis on flexibility and mobility.
“Other than that, I must have had a few angels watching over me for the past 20 years, because I’ve never had a bad injury. Hopefully that will continue.”
Meyer puts South Africa’s flyhalf debate into perspective. As was the case at the 2019 World Cup, the group will need more than 15 or even 23 players to realise their goal over a series of three Tests.
“I would pick Handre Pollard ahead of him – and I did that at the 2015 World Cup,” Meyers offers. “That said, I wouldn’t mind having Morne on the bench for the coming series against the Lions. His goal-kicking and experience would be an asset, and he can cover centre as well as fullback.
“Morne is known for his tactical kicking and goal-kicking. I really believe his attacking game is underrated, though, if you look at how he has been putting Bulls players through gaps over the past few months. His cross-kicking to the wings has been exceptional this season. That’s given the Bulls yet another big attacking weapon.
“If Pollard was injured, I wouldn’t hesitate to back Morne to start. He’s shown this season that he’s still good enough – and nobody handles the pressure better.”
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