Some balance on Steyn, please

Morné Steyn's error against Australia must be seen in isolation and not indicative of him being a useless player, writes RYAN VREDE.

Steyn's failure to find touch with a penalty in the dying minutes of Saturday's Test in Perth contributed significantly to the Springboks' defeat. Knowing the perfectionist Steyn is, that error will eat at him for some time. A kicker of his calibre should have sailed the ball into the crowd. However, that error is in no way an indictment on his value or selection, nor does it diminish his value going forward at this stage.

I would have absolutely no hesitation in selecting him for the Wellington clash with the All Blacks and I can predict with certainty that coach Heyneke Meyer will start him on Saturday. 

Rightly so. Meyer must not be swayed by the public's pressure to entrust rookie flyhalf Handré Pollard with a start for an away Test against the best side in the world. I wouldn't even have Pollard on the bench, preferring Pat Lambie to cover Steyn. That's not a reflection of my estimation of Pollard – he is a fine player who is the future of Springbok rugby at flyhalf – but he's some way off from being able to successfully negotiate the tactical and mental challenges associated with a Test of this magnitude.

There is very little balance when assessing Steyn. Those who love him really love him, to a fault at times. His critics are plentiful and generally unable to acknowledge Steyn's form when good nor are they open to being educated about his value to the Springboks. He polarises opinion more than any other current Springbok player. 

I was critical of Steyn in 2011 through to 2012. His form had waned and he became a liability to the Springboks. I was, however, never closed to his re-installation provided it was merited through consistently high-performance levels. I always understood that Steyn's value is immense when he's playing at his best. He is a match-winner. I also appreciate the importance of his tactical and goal-kicking game in the context of the Springboks' approach in these Tests in Australasia. 

Meyer will be persecuted for selecting Steyn when the team is announced this week. He should pay no mind to that misguided vitriol. The same people who spit that poison celebrated wildly when Steyn was central to victories over the past couple of years. Yet they never feel inclined to doff their caps in acknowledgment at those times. They are also the ones who want the Springboks to adopt a running game that will undoubtedly be terminal to their cause, believing Steyn to be the main reason the Springboks don't embrace this attacking method (which is utter nonsense).

This isn't an appeal to suspend a critical view on Steyn – every player must be consistently critiqued. It's an appeal to ensure that critique is balanced and fair. Persecuting him to the degree he has been for a single error is neither balanced nor fair. 

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

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Ryan Vrede