Frans Steyn is likely to sit on the bench for the Springboks’ Test in Perth, with Ruan Pienaar starting in the No 15 jersey.
Reports from the Springbok camp suggest that the shift is imminent, despite Steyn enjoying somewhat of a purple patch of late.
Steyn has started five Tests at fullback this year, with Zane Kirchner filling the role in the final British & Irish Lions Test. In the Boks’ last fixture against Australia at Newlands, Pienaar replaced Steyn for the final quarter, but had little effect as he and Morné Steyn rotated between flyhalf and fullback.
Coach Peter de Villiers wouldn’t confirm the decision, but it is thought to be down to Steyn’s pending move to French Club Racing Metro after the Tri-Nations, which is likely to see him unavailable for the Boks’ year-end tour.
De Villiers cited the 2011 World Cup as the reason for the possible move, but to experiment with the Boks on the brink of Tri-Nations success is perplexing.
‘I’m going to start talking to players about that tournament. It’s important that each one of them knows how he fits into the 2011 picture. The team that trained [with Pienaar at fullback] may not be the same one that runs out in Perth, but it’s important for us as a management to examine all our options,’ said De Villiers.
Steyn has been shunted around the backline throughout his career, with his role at inside centre during the World Cup yielding the most success. This year he has also shown an aptitude for the fullback berth, where his size and strength have made him a solid option in the last line of defence and on attack, while, most importantly, his siege gun boot dovetails perfectly with the Boks’ current game-plan.
De Villiers has never hidden his preference for South African-based players, and Steyn’s Parisian sojourn could be counting against him.
Pienaar made his Test debut off the bench against the All Blacks as a fullback in 2006, but has since been used sparingly in that position at provincial and national level. His preference is scrumhalf, but he agreed to a move to pivot based on De Villiers’ belief that he could be a success there.
However, Morné Steyn’s rapid rise has meant the coach might be forced to look at other positional options for Pienaar.