Frans Steyn replaces Ruan Pienaar at fullback in the only change to the Springbok side for Saturday’s showdown with the All Blacks.
Pienaar hasn’t been exposed at No 15 in the last two Tests, but he hasn’t exactly made a telling contribution. Peter de Villiers should have stuck with Steyn for the entire Tri-Nations campaign. This would’ve seen a player with a significant kicking game and sound positional sense patrolling the back.
‘It’s a case of horses-for-courses,’ the Bok coach said. ‘With Dan Carter at flyhalf for the All Blacks we are expecting them to kick quite a bit and Frans will be able to play a key role with his big boot.’
Steyn will join Bryan Habana and Odwa Ndungane at the back. Habana is nursing a hamstring injury, but, like No 8 Pierre Spies (groin), is expected to recover fully before Saturday.
De Villiers got it wrong when he dropped Steyn in the first instance. The Boks had beaten the Australasians soundly in South Africa, and Steyn was an integral part of their winning strategy.
The Bok coach can count himself lucky that this All Blacks side isn’t good enough to score eight tries in two Tests. There are other reasons why South Africa underperformed in Perth and Brisbane, but they certainly missed Steyn at the back.
De Villiers cites Carter’s selection as influential to his own decision to drop Pienaar. Suddenly the Boks are not concerned about the future, and suddenly they’re worrying about winning the trophy.
It was a sure sign of shortsightedness when Pienaar was picked for the Perth fixture. Because of Saru’s foreign-player policy, Steyn has jeopardised his World Cup spot by signing a three-year deal with French club Racing Metro. The Bok management, in all their wisdom, took this into consideration when selecting the starting side for Perth. Steyn was dropped and Pienaar, a player who is unlikely to play fullback in future but can play there if needed, was ushered in.
It was an arrogant move. Of course the Boks will rightly blame their lack of forward intensity in Brisbane, but the selection of Steyn at this late date is an admittance to something else that’s been lacking in the two Australia away fixtures.
Steyn should have started until the title was secured. If the Boks had beaten the Wallabies in Brisbane, then De Villiers could have talked about making changes with the future in mind.
That Pienaar is a sound fullback option is debatable, and that he should be an option at all is a hot topic. Zane Kirchner is available for the European tour and Conrad Jantjes will be back from a long-term injury in 2010.
The Bok management claim Pienaar needs the game time, but with those other fullbacks available in 2010, it seems Pienaar is the emergency alternative not the starting alternative. He’s being groomed as a super sub who can cover 9 to 15.
Springboks – 15 Frans Steyn, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Juan Smith, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 John Smit (c), 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Ruan Pienaar.
By Jon Cardinelli