No South Africa-based flyhalf has done enough to unseat Morné Steyn with the Springboks, writes RYAN VREDE.
On the evidence presented thus far, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is thin on in-form options at flyhalf, and even with a couple of months to go before their first Test he wouldn't have thought far beyond Steyn as his pivot.
Meyer had hoped this would be the season some of his younger options in the position would show refinement. He is acutely aware of the importance of having a plan beyond Steyn and is actively seeking one. Those plans, however, appear to have stalled, albeit temporarily.
Pat Lambie was developing well under Jake White's tutelage at the Sharks until a bicep injury ruled him out of action for six months. Lambie's game management and decision-making under pressure was impressive, while his goal and tactical kicking was showing the required consistency. He has thrived behind a strong pack, while his partnership with Frans Steyn at inside centre was growing into what White it envisioned it could be. These points are crucial because the bulk of the Springbok pack will come from the Sharks and Steyn is certain to start at inside centre.
Lambie fronted well in the position on the 2012 year-end tour but didn't do enough to earn Meyer's trust for the 2013 Test season. Being based in South Africa gave him an edge in selection over Morné Steyn for the season ahead, but that is now a non-issue, given his injury.
Elsewhere, I suspect Meyer will be most disappointed in the development of Johan Goosen, a player he has high hopes for. Meyer, remember, wasted no time in thrusting him into an away game against the All Black in 2012, then backing him to start in the home Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks. Goosen was Meyer's preferred flyhalf for the 2013 season before injury eliminated him from consideration and my understanding is that Meyer continues to believe he is the long-term answer in the position.
Goosen, however, has done little to advance his cause. He has offered a series of average or poor performances for the Cheetahs, with only glimpses of his game-breaking potential to remind of his exceptional talent. Meyer may see this as being a product of his environment insomuch as the Cheetahs have been desperately poor in most facets of play. But class endures even in difficult conditions, as evidenced by the performances of Goosen's team-mate Willie le Roux. If Goosen stays fit he will be in the Springbok squad for the mid-year Tests and Meyer will feel strongly that he can get the 22-year-old playing at a level he needs him to. This, however, is not the ideal situation.
Of the other flyhalves I don't think any warrant more than a passing mention. Yes, even Marnitz Boshoff. The Lions No 10 was celebrated after starting the competition strongly, but good games against the Stormers and Cheetahs (among the tournament's weakest teams) is hardly the standard by which he should be measured in a Springboks context. He has been a non-factor against strong opposition, which really tells you all you need to know about any potential international career. Boshoff has kept Elton Jantjies on the wood, which is where the level of his talent demands he stay, while going north from Ellis Park, the Bulls have, for the first time in nearly a decade in this tournament, flyhalves who aren't in the Springbok frame. I won't waste your time debating the merits of what the Stormers offer in this regard.
Morné Steyn's Parisian sojourn was risky as he would have been aware of how it could compromise his Test career. He has struggled in a mediocre Stade Français side (they are placed eighth after 24 matches), unable to impose himself on matches through his excellent goal and tactical kicking. Yet he has every right to feel confident that he will remain the Springboks incumbent for the mid-year Tests. Beyond that Meyer is unlikely to experiment at flyhalf in the Rugby Championship.
An argument can be made for Frans Steyn filling the position but Meyer has decided he is best deployed at inside centre and will only use him there in an absolute emergency. Morné is the man to steer the ship and nothing offered from local flyhalves suggests that will change.
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