Nienaber: Steyn has been a ‘fantastic servant’ to SA rugby

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says he cannot speak highly enough of stalwart Morne Steyn, who has just announced his international retirement. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

On Tuesday, Nienaber announced his squad for the Boks’ three-Test end-of-year tour, with Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies named as the only two specialist flyhalves.

Backup at flyhalf will be provided by utility backs Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn, which follows the news that Morne Steyn had opted to head into Test retirement following the recently concluded Rugby Championship.

“It’s a good time to make this decision,” Steyn told, “I think it’s time to call it a day now.

“I’ve had a lot of time to think about this and it has been difficult over the last few months being away from home with touring and being away from my kids.

“I said to Jacques that I haven’t been the No 1 choice for a while now, and it doesn’t make sense to wait for injuries for a chance to play. I have a year or two left in my career and I’d rather spend it playing for the Bulls than sitting on the sidelines. I really want to enjoy my last two years of rugby.”

It brings down the curtain on an illustrious 68-Test career, with its highlights Steyn unforgettably slotting the series-winning kicks against the British & Irish Lions in both 2009 and 2021.

In hindsight, the rugby romanticist might lament the fact that Steyn’s final Test rugby involvement was not in the winning third Test against the Lions, with the 37-year-old also coming off the bench in the first Rugby Championship clash with Argentina.

However, throughout the 2021 season, Steyn continued to perform a magnanimous mentorship role in an expanded Rugby Championship squad.

The veteran flyhalf will now continue to turn out for the Bulls, but a desire to be closer to home and family ultimately swayed his decision to call time on his Test career.

Nienaber said Steyn’s contributions both on and off the field spoke volumes about the value and quality the veteran added to the Springboks.

“What can you say about Morne?! He has just been such a great servant to SA rugby, and was a brilliant player. Firstly, hats off to him for what he’s delivered on the field. Just look at the magic in terms of what he achieved against the Lions, beating them twice in the specific manner he did speaks volumes about his on-field impact.

“Off the field, it was also phenomenal to work with him over the last 20 weeks. He painted pictures [in training] to help the team and was never scared to share wisdom with the younger players. I could just talk and talk and talk about him.

“However, I think what tilted him towards retirement is that he’s a big family man. With the Covid restrictions, access in and out of the squad is not so easy, especially for family members to come in. And so that was a big contributing factor at this stage of his life and career.

“So, we just wish him well. He is such a fantastic guy, not just a fantastic rugby player!”

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Craig Lewis