Bok halfback pair raring to go

Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher says Morne Steyn and Francois Hougaard are in a ‘good space’ following inconsistent showings during the June Test series.

Scrumhalf Hougaard and flyhalf Steyn are likely to spearhead the Boks when they open their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina at Newlands this Saturday. The duo has come under criticism since the 2-0 series win over England, with Hougaard struggling with his tactical kicking game and Steyn disappointing with his goal-kicking.

The latter only managed to convert 13 kicks from 23 attempts over the three matches, which is a success rate of 57%. He also missed four goal attempts in the third Test in PE, which ended in a 14-14 stalemate.

However, Loubscher stressed that the two players have been looking good after the first week of training and are excited to make a positive contribution upon their return to the Test stage.

‘Francois is in a good space,’ Loubscher told keo.co.za. ‘We had a good look into him this past week, and there is a lot of energy. We’re looking forward to get in a great second week ahead of the first Test against Argentina.

‘In terms of Morne, he’s been a professional for a long time. He will know what he needs to work on, and he’ll be looking to pick up form and maintain those high standards that we’re all used to. He’s also in a good space.’

Loubscher added that while Steyn’s goal-kicking has been substandard, his all-round play has been impressive.

‘If you look at most of the tries we scored against England, you will see Morne played a huge part during those attacks. I’m very happy with his contribution in general play and I’m sure he’ll continue to make an impact in that regard.’

Loubscher also expressed his excitement in the return of inside centre Frans Steyn and his partnership with skipper Jean de Villiers. The Sharks man missed the third Test as he got married that weekend and went on honeymoon.

‘Frans is in great shape and plays a massive role in our backline play. He’s a strong ball carrier and helps the team get over the advantage line. I’m excited that he’s back in the team. The fact that he’s so versatile in terms of where he plays is also a big advantage.

‘I’ve also enjoyed Jean de Villiers’s stint at outside centre. I think he’s adapted really well. It’s good to have your leader play out wide as he’s a key decision maker, especially when the team is getting over the gainline.’

By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town