Former wing Casper Steyn will be among those who should be honoured when the Vodacom Bulls play the British & Irish Lions at Loftus on 17 July 2021.
Steyn spent weeks fighting for his life after a car accident one kilometre from his home in Centurion. Fortunately, he survived the accident in 2010.
Steyn was a superstar for the Bulls in their famous 1997 win against the British & Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld.
The goal-kicking left wing scored 20 points – through a try, three conversions and three penalties – as the Bulls outscored the Lions four tries to three in a 35-30 win.
It was the Lions first defeat by a South African provincial team in the professional era and since then the Lions have yet to lose to a South African team but the Springboks.
The Cheetahs (24-26) and Western Province (23-26) came close to upstaging their illustrious opponents and the Emerging Boks (13 all) claimed a moral victory at Newlands, Cape Town in the 2009 tour.
But it is the Bulls win that stands tall among South Africa’s provincial elite – and it is Steyn’s performance that has not nearly been celebrated enough.
Steyn was a miracle man when at the Bulls and he scored 854 points in 59 matches at an average of 14.47. To put that into context the iconic Naas Botha scored 2,511 points in 179 matches at an average of 14.03.
When one thinks of the British & Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld in the professional era, the immediate image is of Springbok utility back Frans Steyn creating something magical with ball in hand and of Morne Steyn’s magnificent last-minute 50-metre penalty to win the second Test and the series for the Springboks.
But it is the unheralded (Casper) Steyn who owned Loftus on 7 June, 1997, against the Lions.
Which of the non-international players will be the South African Casper Steyn of 2021?
The Lions visit South Africa only every 12 years and understandably there has been massive demand for tickets in the Ballot, which opened on 2 September.
In the week since the ticket ballot opening, 250,000 South African residents have visited the official South African tour and ticket website and in excess of 230,000 have applied for tickets. This demand excludes the travelling British & Irish Lions supporters, which are expected to total 30,000.
The three Test matches, as would be expected, have been hugely oversubscribed and the demand of the South African rugby public could never be matched by the supply of Test tickets.
SA Rugby’s CEO Jurie Roux acknowledged this would be the case when the tour dates were announced last December and confirmed a few months ago.
But Roux has also stressed how important the five non-Test matches are in the context of the tour, especially to give South African teams home-ground advantage.
‘We have ensured that there are more tickets available for our home fans than visitors from overseas, as we want the Sea of Green to swamp the Red Tide,’ said Roux.
‘Given the response for tickets already balloted for, the chances are good that the “sold out” signs will go up when the ballot closes on 16 September.’
The tourists play five non-Test matches, starting with the tour opener against the Stormers at the Cape Town Stadium on 3 July. The visitors will also play the Sharks in Durban, the Bulls in Pretoria and two matches against a SA Invitational side in Port Elizabeth and against SA A in Nelspruit.
British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland, in discussing the tour schedule, raved about the five-match buildup to the three-Test series and complimented the quality of opposition.
‘You want to play the best and the best players in South Africa. It is pleasing to see the quality of teams we are playing in South Africa because when you are playing the Super Rugby sides that have been together the whole season, it is going to be tough. But it is the kind of preparation we are looking for leading into the three Test matches against the world champion Springboks.’
Gatland, head coach of the Lions in Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017, toured South Africa in 2009 as an assistant coach. He experienced the strength of the South African domestic sides, even though the Lions finished the tour unbeaten outside the Test series.
‘We can’t wait to accept the rugby challenge and experience the culture of South Africa again. Those of us who have toured South Africa before know what an amazing place it is to visit and in which it is to play rugby.’
The ticket prices for the matches against the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls, start at just R250 and these are only available to South African residents. The two midweek matches in Port Elizabeth and Nelspruit have entry level tickets at R100. These are also just for South African residents.
Roux has been consistent with his message that the tour’s commercial aspirations had to be balanced with affordability and accessibility to matches.
Registration is at www.lionstour2021.co.za and the ticket ballot closes at 23:59pm on Wednesday, 16 September.
All applicants will know before the end of the month, whether or not they have been successful in their ticket requests.
Remembering the Bulls of 1997 who beat the British & Irish Lions 35-30 at Loftus
15. Graeme Bouwer, 14. Wynand Lourens (replaced by Grant Esterhuizen), 13. Johan Schutte, 12. Danie van Schalkwyk, 11. Casper Steyn, 10. Roland de Marigny, 9. Conrad Breytenbach, 8. Schutte Bekker, 7. Adriaan Richter, 6. Nicky van der Walt, 5. Derick Badenhorst (replaced by Ralf Schroeder), 4. Derrick Grobbelaar (replaced by Gerhard Laufs), 3. Piet Boer (replaced by Jacques Taljaard), 2. Henry Tromp (replaced by Jannie Brooks) and 1. Lourens Campher.