Frans Steyn is playing with the energy and enthusiasm of a youngster. The 33-year-old is surely set for a second shot at the British & Irish Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Watching Steyn power through an 80-minute performance for the Cheetahs on Wednesday – which included a match-winning penalty – was quite simply a lot of fun.
Here is a guy who has been playing the game for some 15 years. You could almost forgive him if he viewed his return to the Cheetahs as a low-profile swansong.
Yet, here he was playing in the unnamed ‘preparation series’, alongside several largely unknown players, and with no fans in sight, and still throwing every bit of energy into the performance.
At one point he rode one tackle, and then scrambled to the touchline to make a second hit on a Sharks player on the break, managing to bring him to ground with one hand.
By the end of the encounter, he’d completed 11 tackles, 12 ball carries, and slotted six out of seven shots at goal.
Who’d love to see this against the British & Irish Lions? pic.twitter.com/WItU9eQ4jw
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) March 11, 2021
It was clear to see that Steyn is still fuelled by a competitive spirit that has not been dulled by age or the nature of the competition he’s performing in.
It’s a hunger for victory that all great athletes possess, and the fact Steyn is still fit and firing will not be going unnoticed by the Springbok coaches.
Towards the end of last year, I spoke to Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber about exactly this point.
‘I look at his game intensely: every cleanout he makes, every carry, every pass, every kick, and Frans is still playing good rugby,’ Nienaber insisted at the time.
‘If he continues to play good rugby and he’s a competitive warrior, age is irrelevant. I don’t know if he’s got it in his mind to stop playing in the near future, but if he carries on performing like he is now, well, I’d hope he’s still playing in 2023.’
It’s applicable as ever at a time when the Lions series looms on the horizon, with the likelihood appearing to be a tour on northern-hemisphere shores.
It further adds to Steyn’s value as a player with vast experience, big-match temperament and a knowledge of different conditions.
His goal-kicking rhythm looks to be as impressive as ever, and the ability for Steyn to knock over penalties from 60 metres out makes him an integral weapon to the team cause.
He also remains ideally suited to a utility role among the bomb squad, allowing for the Boks to continue with a six-two forwards-to-backs split on the bench.
That would continue to maximise the Springboks’ forward firepower in the northern hemisphere, while Steyn’s presence and ability to kick long-range penalties at the business end of matches make him a sure-fire selection for the Lions tour.
Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images