Frans Steyn will play a decisive role for the Sharks against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The 27-year-old is back at inside centre, the position he last occupied for his franchise against the Highlanders at Kings Park in late April. A shock loss that day saw Jake White shift Steyn to flyhalf, in place of Tim Swiel, for their overseas tour, which is where he stayed until another shock defeat at home, to the Stormers, just before the June break.
Steyn then started at 12 for the Springboks against the World XV before controversially withdrawing from the squad, because of a contractual dispute with Saru and a chronic knee injury that requires him to be carefully managed. Steyn has sat out Monday and Tuesday training sessions with the Sharks all season, but was expected to train all the time with the Boks.
Having had a three-week break, Steyn will be eager to help the Sharks win their last two matches and secure a home semi-final.
He will play an important ball-carrying role at inside centre, while his big boot will be called upon in Bloemfontein if the Sharks are awarded penalties 50-60m out. Steyn has been successful with nine penalty goals within this range this season, while missing three. He also kicked three vital penalties against the Cheetahs in Durban in April as the Sharks won a hard-fought match 19-8.
Apart from making changes at 10 and 12, Sharks director of rugby Jake White has opted to rest his all-Bok front row for this match, with Dale Chadwick, Kyle Cooper and Lourens Adriaanse all starting. Anton Bresler is back from a long injury lay-off and will partner Stephan Lewies in the second row, while Jean Deysel takes over the captaincy.
Meanwhile, Johan Goosen will start at flyhalf for the Cheetahs, having recovered from the knee injury that limited his involvement with the Springboks last month.
With the Waratahs having moved three points ahead of the Sharks at the top of the combined log, White's side need a bonus-point win against a Cheetahs team that is rooted to the bottom. The Cheetahs, though, are never easy to beat in Bloemfontein, and the Sharks may have to settle for the win.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Cheetahs 7, Sharks 14, Draw 1
In Bloemfontein: Cheetahs 3, Sharks 6, Draw 1
*Includes Cats games
STEYN'S STATS THAT MATTER
77 – His goal-kicking success-rate percentage in Super Rugby this season (46/60)
9 – The number of penalty goals Steyn has kicked from 50-60m (he has missed three)
1,087 – The number of minutes he's played (Rank 22)
102 – The number of carries he's made (Rank 39)
16 – The number of defenders he's beaten (Rank 54)
90 – The number of tackles he's made (Rank 57)
Source: goalkickers.co.za & Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Cheetahs – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Trevor Nyakane.
Subs: 16 Caylib Oosthuizen, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Carl Wegner, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Hennie Daniller.
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 S'bura Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs: 16 Thomas du Toit, 17 Bismarck du Plessis, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Odwa Ndungane, 23 Tonderai Chavhanga.
Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix