Springbok captain Siya Kolisi says the knowledge and experience of Morne Steyn has been of considerable benefit ahead of the third and final Test against the British & Irish Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Steyn last played for the Boks in a losing cause against the All Blacks in 2016.
Considering the nature of the result, which saw the Boks hammered 57-15 in Durban, there was plenty of fallout from that defeat.
Then 32 years old, Steyn was one of the players who dropped out of the national picture, and many thought it might prove to be his final Test in Springbok colours.
Considering he was based in France, and seemingly in the twilight of his career, a return to the Springbok setup certainly seemed highly unlikely.
In a recent interview with SARugbymag.co.za, Steyn acknowledged that even when he recently headed back to his old franchise, the Bulls, earning a Bok recall was the furthest thing from his mind.
“When I rejoined the Bulls in 2020, I thought it would be a good way to end my career and have a bit of fun,” he commented. “I obviously wasn’t thinking about the Boks at that stage.
“One thing has led to another, with the Bulls gaining momentum and winning two titles [Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup]. Now I’m back in the Bok mix. It would be amazing to face the Lions again. Not many players get that chance.”
It makes Steyn’s inclusion on the bench for this Saturday’s third Test all the more remarkable, particularly from the perspective of rugby romanticism considering he was the man who famously came off the bench to kick the series-winning penalty in 2009.
Of course, there is every chance that Handre Pollard will play the full 80 minutes on Saturday, but should the Boks need to call on a general with big-match experience, Steyn will be that man.
Speaking on the eve of the series-deciding third Test, Kolisi looked calm and relaxed. Questions posed to him around off-field matters or past controversies were not entertained.
It was all in keeping with a build-up week which has seen very few bold public proclamations from either camp as focus has honed in on internal preparations for this final battle.
“We know for a whole lot of us this opportunity won’t come again,” Kolisi commented. “We have done a lot of off-field preparation, trained as hard as we can, and mentally I feel we are where we want to be now. I know this is my only opportunity to be part of a winning series against the Lions, but we’re all in a unique position and very excited for the final Test. The biggest thing in our team is about controlling the controllables, and that’s what we’ve been focused on.”
In this regard, Kolisi said the presence of someone like Steyn had been beneficial throughout the series.
‘Morne’s energy and his love for the game [is infectious], and he’s still hungry as ever. He’s been sharing a lot of knowledge with the guys, and helping prepare the team, and now he gets his opportunity to play. I think his calming influence and cool head is something we need. You can’t buy experience, and I think his wisdom will be of huge value.”
On a final subject, Kolisi reflected on what has been an extraordinary tour in so many ways, but said the overriding emotion was one of excitement ahead of kick off.
“It’s been unique for both teams. We’ve all gone through a lot to get here, and in this regard it’s been a huge honour to play in this series. We want to finish strong, and hopefully it will be a proper game of good rugby, so we’re excited.
“Something we pride ourselves on is that if we’re beaten fair and square then so be it. The best team must win on the day… This is our final in every way, this is the game that matters and the one we want to remember more than anything else.”