Nienaber: Steyn continues to show his class

Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber has lauded Frans Steyn for his impact on the team as the veteran prepares to set a career record against Scotland on Saturday.

The match in Edinburgh will be memorable for Steyn, should he take the field, as he becomes the first South African to play Test rugby over 15 calendar years.

Steyn has already overtaken the most-capped player in Bok history as Victor Matfield’s career spanned 14 years and 122 days, while Steyn – who has been on the winning side in 55 of his 72 Tests and scored 144 points – is in line to increase that mark to 15 years and two days in the second of three Tests schedule on the current tour.

Nienaber lauded Steyn, who, at the age of 34, showed that he still has what it takes to star at the highest level of the game by being named man of the match against Wales last week.

“Playing international rugby for 15 years is an extraordinary achievement and what makes this feat even more remarkable is that Frans continues to show his class despite being at the twilight of his career,” said Nienaber.

“His influence is equally valuable off the field and it is fantastic to have a player of his calibre guide the young players in the squad.”

Nienaber has made three changes to the team, with Franco Mostert and Jesse Kriel both set to win 50th Test caps, while Elton Jantjies and Willie le Roux come in at flyhalf and fullback, respectively.

“Scotland will be a force to be reckoned with at Murrayfield, so it was important for us to maintain continuity within our squad, while at the same time celebrating Jesse and Franco’s 50th caps and giving Elton a chance to start,” said Nienaber.

“Elton has been training very well since the squad assembled before the Lions series and he’s performed well every time he earned a run, so we thought it was the right time to hand him a start.

“It will be a special day for Jesse and Franco as they run out for their 50th Tests at Murrayfield. They are both fantastic servants of the game and their high work ethic and true team attitude make them vital members of our squad, and we are all delighted to see them achieve this feat.”

The Springboks may have only suffered two defeats by Scotland at Murrayfield since 1994 (in 2002 and 2010), but with the home side coming off a morale-boosting victory over Australia thi past weekend, and wins over England, France and Italy in the 2021 Six Nations, Nienaber expects a hard Test.

“Scotland have a quality team with a number of experienced players and a few British & Irish Lions players, so we are under no illusions about the challenge ahead,” said Nienaber.

“They are a physical side with solid set pieces, but they also have the skills to run the ball, so we’ll have to be accurate on attack and defence.

“We laid a good foundation for the tour in Cardiff last week, and we know what areas we would like to improve on. We created opportunities to score points last week, but we didn’t convert some of them, and we also conceded several penalties, so we need to step up our discipline as well.

“The scrums will of course be a key battle with former Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers now serving that role for Scotland, but that is an area of the game we pride ourselves on, too, so we need to be physical and accurate up front.”

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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