Frans Steyn looks likely to line up at outside centre when the Sharks face the Hurricanes in their first tour match in Wellington.
Steyn has been used at fullback and flyhalf in their campaign to date, the latter with limited success. An injury to Waylon Murray against the Reds forced Steyn to outside centre (although he often stood at first receiver), with Frederic Michalak stepping off the wood and into the pivot berth.
Reports from New Zealand suggest that Murray is doubtful for Saturday’s match. Michalak has run at flyhalf in training this week, with Steyn at outside centre. Steyn impressed as an inside centre for the Springboks at the World Cup after Jean de Villiers tore a bicep muscle in their pool match against Samoa. Should Murray fail to recover, it would be the first time Steyn would operate in the No 13 shirt in his short career.
Speaking to keo.co.za earlier this year Sharks head coach Dick Muir said Steyn would be rotated between fullback and flyhalf, but did stress that he felt he had the aptitude to succeed in both midfield roles. Former Springbok head coach Jake White often spoke up Steyn’s versatility – telling this website at the Springbok World Cup squad announcement in August 2007 that Steyn provided cover at 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
The prospect of seeing Steyn play alongside Brad Barritt is an exciting one, particularly because they have the potential to complement each other very well.
Barritt is the cement that binds the Sharks’ back division, plotting the destruction of the defensive line through his vision and skill in distribution. Steyn, like Murray, thrives with ball in hand and his directness, deceptive speed and power should play off Barritt’s circumspect approach nicely. Steyn at outside centre also gives the Sharks an extra tactical kicking option in midfield – which is a luxury in the modern game.
The Sharks’ backline have failed to fire thus far, testament to this being that flanker Keegan Daniel is the team’s leading try scorer. They have to find their groove against the Hurricanes – and with a backline that is likely to pair Ruan Pienaar and Michalak as the halfbacks, Barritt and Steyn in midfield and JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane and Stefan Terblanche in the back three – the Sharks should be able to exploit the weakest defensive unit in the top four.
By Ryan Vrede