Morné Steyn's influence as a distributor, tactician, and goal-kicker should ensure that South Africa beat Wales in Nelspruit, writes JON CARDINELLI.
In the first clash of the series in Durban, the Springbok forwards pulverised their Welsh counterparts. The Bok backline then made that platform count, with Willie le Roux producing some incisive touches, and Bryan Habana proving why he is still one of the best finishers in the game.
While those performances are to be commended, due plaudits should go to the man who controlled proceedings from the No 10 position. Morné Steyn may have struggled with injuries and ultimately his form during a recent stint in France, but in the first Test of the 2014 season, he showed why he is rated by Heyneke Meyer as the best flyhalf available to the Boks.
Steyn benefited from the platform provided by his forwards, but what marked his performance as one of real class was his exemplary decision-making. His tactical kicking ensured that the Boks played in the right areas, while his passing and running game also caused the Wales defence problems.
At Kings Park, Steyn kicked six out of six from the tee. The Boks will expect the same sort of accuracy at the Mbombela Stadium, and will not have forgotten what transpired at this venue in 2013.
The Boks took Scotland lightly on that occasion, and were forced to fight back from a 17-6 deficit. The final scoreline of 30-17 flattered the Boks, and Meyer admitted as much afterwards.
They can't afford to underestimate Wales this Saturday, despite the tourists poor showing in the first Test. The Boks and Steyn must make their early chances count, and build some scoreboard pressure.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has made several changes with the hope that it will improve the tourists' chances of victory. A new openside flank in Josh Turbull has been brought into the starting team, as has rookie prop Samson Lee.
Meyer has opted to start loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira and lock Flip van der Merwe. These are changes that will have no impact on the Boks' game plan.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Boks 26, Wales 1, Draw 1
In South Africa: Boks 9, Wales 0
STEYN'S STATS THAT MATTER
649 – The number of points he's scored for the Boks in Tests (Rank 2 behind Percy Montgomery)
55 – The number of times he's played for the Boks
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Subs: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Paul James, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 James Hook, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix