Frans Steyn will face a stern examination of his fullback abilities in Hamilton this Saturday.
JP Pietersen’s forced omission is the only change to the Bok XV that did duty in the 31-19 domination in Durban. The All Blacks have made two: Kieran Read for Rodney So’oialo and more importantly Dan Carter essentially in for Conrad Smith, with Stephen Donald and Ma’a Nonu each shifting out a position from the last Test between the countries.
New Zealand have made much noise about how they expect the Boks to kick as much as possible, and although the hosts require four tries, they will adopt a different game-plan to the one they used in South Africa. They will follow the Australian blueprint of the Brisbane embarrassment and attempt to counter the Boks’ strengths, namely their physicality as well as kicking game.
Bok coach Peter de Villiers admitted that Steyn was better suited to handle this than the man he has replaced – Ruan Pienaar – and rightly so, as Pienaar was found out of position on numerous occasions when asked to handle the tactical probes of Berrick Barnes, Will Genia and Matt Giteau.
In the All Blacks, Steyn will now face a similar examination from Carter, Donald and Jimmy Cowan, especially with showers forecast for Hamilton on Saturday.
In South Africa, the All Blacks disregarded the territorial battle, but at the Waikato Stadium they will have a much improved kicking game and Steyn will find himself under more pressure. Steyn will also have to work out the the change in angles resulting from the left/right combination provided by Carter and Donald.
Steyn’s communication with Odwa Ndungane and Bryan Habana will go a long way in determining how they handle what is expected to be a barrage of the boot. With ball in hand, Carter and Donald’s roles will interchange, to keep Steyn and the back three guessing, but on attack, the Boks can ask questions of their own in opposition territory.
The new midfield of Donald and Nonu will create uncertainty within the Blacks, as Donald’s last match at 12 was six years ago in a second division fixture for Counties Manakau against Thames Valley. Nonu has spent the majority of recent times trying to entrench himself at inside centre.
The pair are used to playing alongside one another and there is no questioning their physicality, but they are in different positions with subtle alterations needed on defence. No 13 is viewed as the key position in marshaling the line, and here, Nonu’s communication skills are sure to be tested. The Boks will be hoping to exploit any deficiencies as they did in Perth two weeks ago.
Steyn may be leaving for Racing Metro in France after this Test, but he could leave Peter de Villiers with a clear reminder of why overseas-based Boks should be selected. Steyn has worn the No 15 jersey in five Tests this year, and the Boks have won all five. If Steyn helps contribute to making that ’6′ and ’0′ for 2009 and passes another examination in Hamilton, he will have provided further evidence why he is a must-start at fullback for the Boks during the year-end tour to Europe.
By Grant Ball