Morné Steyn wants to make the Springbok No 10 jersey his own in the lead-up to the World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.
While injured Bok halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie are on the mend, they are unlikely to start in the first game of the international season. The Boks will field a different halfback combination to the one that started in Europe last November.
Heyneke Meyer has expressed his concern over the number of injuries in the extended squad. However, the injuries to key players will provide fringe players with an opportunity.
The battle for World Cup places – be it a starting position, spot on the bench, or place in the final 31-man World Cup squad – will commence in the coming weeks. Whomever features in the next five internationals will have a chance to convince Meyer of their value.
One man who will be looking to make the most of any opportunity is Morné Steyn. The flyhalf scored 58 points for Stade Français during the recent Top 14 play-offs, and ultimately steered the Parisian club to the title.
In an interview for an upcoming edition of SA Rugby magazine, Steyn told me that he is determined to carry that form through to the Test season. Steyn also wants to go to the World Cup as a starting option rather than a reserve.
‘This is the last World Cup I can go to, and I want that No 10 jersey,’ Steyn said. ‘I want to be the guy who steers the Boks into the play-offs, and then makes the big plays in the semi-final and final. I want to be the guy who takes South Africa to glory.’
Last year, Steyn was dropped from the Boks' match-day squad. Meyer wanted to explore Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie as flyhalf options, and both of these players had a big impact in the final two matches of the 2014 Rugby Championship against Australia and New Zealand.
However, the performances of both players on the subsequent tour Europe were less emphatic. Pollard struggled in a rain-affected match in Dublin, and was relegated to the bench for the Boks' remaining tour matches. Lambie was accurate and decisive in the big win against England at Twickenham, but battled to assert himself in the Tests against Italy and Wales.
The Boks have three excellent flyhalf options in Pollard, Lambie, and Steyn, and all three should be part of the 31-man squad that travels to the World Cup. What is less clear at this point is the pecking order.
Form will have some bearing on selection. The five internationals leading up to the World Cup should reveal who deserves to wear that No 10 jersey at the global tournament.
Pollard blew hot and cold in a largely disappointing Vodacom Super Rugby campaign for the Bulls. Lambie missed much of the 2015 tournament due to a neck injury.
In April, an injury to Stade Français' first-choice flyhalf Jules Pilsson presented Steyn with an opportunity. Steyn built some confidence and form, and in doing so made a statement.
His game management and goal-kicking have already proved invaluable in one northern hemisphere tournament this year. The Boks could certainly do with that skill-set at the World Cup in a couple of months' time.
In a sense, all three have a point to prove over the next two months. Steyn will aim to show Meyer that he can be counted on to make the big plays. Pollard will continue to offer more attacking options than any other flyhalf in South Africa, but has to be more consistent in terms of his game management and kicking. For Lambie, the priority will be game time and the chance to prove to Meyer that the recent neck injury has not affected his confidence.
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