In the second instalment of a new article series from the SA Rugby magazine team, JON CARDINELLI reflects on Frans Steyn’s match-winning cameo against Australia in 2007.
The end of the 2007 Tri-Nations Test between the Springboks and Wallabies was fast approaching. The hosts were three points behind on the scoreboard.
Steyn raced back to field a clearance kick by Stephen Larkham. With seven minutes remaining, Steyn could have played the percentages. He could have carried the ball upfield and set up a ruck or he could have passed to a teammate in a more favourable position to counter-attack.
Steyn’s position on the field – a few metres in from the right-hand touchline and 50m out from the goalposts on the angle – hardly seemed to factor into his decision as he spun around and kicked an outrageous drop goal. The sheer audacity of the attempt brought the Newlands crowd to its feet.
Steyn wasn’t done yet, though. The 20-year-old, who had come off the bench to replace Ashwin Willemse on the right wing, popped up at first receiver as the Boks entered the Wallabies 22.
With only three minutes remaining, the youngster positioned himself to make the winning play and then nailed the drop goal that earned South Africa a memorable victory.
‘I guess he proved in the Super 14 that he is freakish when it comes to field goals,’ Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock said afterwards.
‘The first one didn’t take me by surprise, but the second was under extreme pressure and he slotted it to win it by three. It’s pretty rare and it’s a gift he’s got.’
Jake White, who rarely showed emotion during his tenure, embraced Steyn immediately after the game. When he addressed the media later, the Bok coach predicted that Steyn’s composure would be invaluable to the team cause at the 2007 World Cup.
‘We know Francois can change a game and that he can play anywhere in the backline other than scrumhalf,’ White said. ‘We’ve seen players like Andre Pretorius and Percy Montgomery putting over drop goals to win matches and we all know that World Cups have been won on these moments.
‘It’s nice to know we have players in our team who can pull them off under pressure when we need them.’
The Boks went on to lose three of their four Tri-Nations matches that season. Later in the year, however, they beat England in the World Cup final and Steyn was the man who stepped up to slot the decisive penalty goal.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images