Morné Steyn is determined to show Peter de Villiers that he’s more than an excellent goal-kicker when he starts against the All Blacks this weekend.
Butch James will wear the No 10 jersey at the World Cup in New Zealand, but De Villiers still wants Steyn to get a start before the global tournament kicks off in three weeks time. De Villiers told the media on Tuesday that Steyn deserves an opportunity to start alongside the other first-choice players, and is hoping the Bulls’ flyhalf replicates the form that made him so valuable in 2009.
Steyn has battled to impose himself in the subsequent two seasons at Test and Super Rugby level. Many feel that the absence of Du Preez has exposed his limitations while the absence of a solid forward platform has also highlighted his weaknesses on attack and defence.
The most recent performances in Australasia served to underline his shortcomings and furthered the cause of an all-round flyhalf like James. But in this the final fixture before the World Cup, the Bok coach has given Steyn an opportunity, an opportunity he doesn’t intend to waste.
‘I must lift my game,’ Steyn said. ‘It hasn’t gone well in recent matches, but I’m glad to now have senior guys like Fourie du Preez on my inside and Jean de Villiers on my outside. Hopefully that will make things easier.
‘There are many areas of my game that I want to improve. My kicking game has not been up to standard. I slipped some tackles overseas as well. My attacking game could improve a bit, I must vary my play more on attack, in other words decide when to play flat, deep or kick the ball. Hopefully I can find some form this weekend.’
On Tuesday, De Villiers explained Steyn’s selection and then proceeded to talk about the value of an accurate goal-kicker at a World Cup tournament. James is no slouch in front of goal and the Boks have a useful alternative in Frans Steyn, but De Villiers will never forget the match-winning feats of Morné Steyn in the 2009 British & Irish Lions series and subsequent Tri-Nations. It was the boot of Steyn that effectively kept De Villiers in the job.
De Villiers will be hoping that Steyn furthers his cause for World Cup inclusion this weekend. He will want Steyn to show that he can hold his own in general play, as while Steyn has served the Boks in the past, the team can no longer afford to field a weak defender or one-dimensional attacking player at No 10.
The player himself spoke confidently about the challenge ahead. The All Blacks have left eight first-choice players in New Zealand, but there are still a number of attacking threats in the touring party.
‘They’re bringing a guy like Sonny Bill Williams here and Richard Kahui is an awesome player,’ said Steyn. ‘They’re calling it a B side but no All Blacks side is easy to beat.
‘I do have some good memories of playing against the All Blacks. I scored all 31 points when we beat them in Durban [in 2009], and I do remember these kinds of things ahead of a big game, it gives me confidence.
‘The win is important but we really want to improve on certain things. On tour we were shocking, and while we were a bit better last week we still didn’t get the win. We will be looking to fix a few things and get our own game right.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth