Frans Steyn believes that he still has a lot to prove in the lead-up to the announcement of the World Cup squad. JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg reports.
The Boks beat the Wallabies 35-17 at Ellis Park on Saturday. While the collective performance was far from polished, a few individuals caught the eye of coach Rassie Erasmus.
Herschel Jantjies scored two tries on debut and received most of the plaudits. Cobus Reinach also made an impression in what was his first Test in four years.
André Esterhuizen, however, made several errors and conceded a yellow card for a high tackle that ultimately cost the Boks points in his absence. When Steyn was introduced in the second stanza, the Bok backline appeared to stabilise.
Steyn himself played like a man possessed. The Test marked his first since 2017 and possibly a last chance to stake a World Cup claim.
Frans Steyn on why he’s glad he didn’t start and getting used to the Bok structures. pic.twitter.com/2F6hiGYLYw
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) July 21, 2019
The centre has nothing left to prove in the context of his career. He was part of the Bok side that won the 2007 World Cup. Two years after that, he featured prominently for the team that beat the British & Irish Lions and won the Tri-Nations.
That said, the cameo he produced at Ellis Park this past Saturday suggests that he’s hungry for another crack at the Webb Ellis Cup.
‘I was nervous,’ Steyn told a group of journalists at the stadium. ‘My wife was pacing up and down at the hotel before we left for the game. Watching her made me nervous.
‘When we started to warm up at Ellis Park, I calmed down a little bit.’
Erasmus felt that Steyn played well in the second half. The player himself, however, believes that he still has work to do.
‘I’ve been around and I’ve had my bad years,’ Steyn said. ‘Careers have ups and downs. It’s one of those things. Mine has gone up and down, as everybody in this room knows.
‘I’m actually happy that I didn’t start against Australia, because I’ve been in the squad for just two weeks and I’m still trying to get used to all the structures. I can’t say we don’t get coached that well in France, but Rassie and his team have really stepped up. They’ve done a great job.’
The Boks will face the All Blacks in Wellington next Saturday. A group of players travelled to New Zealand earlier this week. The rest of the squad will fly out in the next 24 hours, and Steyn is expected to feature in the 23-man side at the Cake Tin.
‘It will be a massive game,’ he said. ‘We’ll have to wait and see if I get picked. If I don’t play, I’ll be there supporting the guys who do.
‘If I play, I’ll try my best. During my time here there probably will be some screw-ups. But I’ll do my best.’
Steyn refused to the entertain the idea that he’s already taken one step towards selection for the World Cup squad.
What he has been pleased to note is the progress of this Bok side since the dark days of 2016 and 2017 – a period that witnessed a series of humiliating defeats.
‘The Boks have been through ups and downs. I don’t know who’s [part of the] A and B team at the moment,’ he added, referring to Erasmus’ split-squad policy for the Rugby Championship, ‘but there are 14 guys overseas and we still managed to beat Australia and get five log points.
‘Two years ago, who would have thought we would beat Australia like this? I was sitting in France, and I wouldn’t have predicted this, even if I was in the squad.
‘It’s just unbelievable what Rassie and SA Rugby have done. It’s unbelievably special for the players.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images