Jean de Villiers says Frans Steyn’s return to the Springbok line-up will give the team much-needed grunt in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina.
The Springboks started their new era under Heyneke Meyer with a 2-0 Test series triumph over England in June. Their displays were inconsistent over the three Tests, with the Boks dominating the tourists but also showing vulnerabilities which allowed the Poms to get back into the contest.
The third clash in PE was their most disappointing performance as it ended in a 14-14 stalemate. This fixture was played without inside centre Frans Steyn, who was a main source of momentum in the backline. He proved to be a massive loss at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as he was unavailable for selection because he got married that weekend.
With Steyn returning to the midfield to play his 50th Test, Springbok captain De Villiers expects his centre partner to make a big impact against the Pumas at Newlands on Saturday – especially with his strong ball carrying abilities, resilient guard on defence and big boot.
‘Frans is a big boost for us,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za. ‘Wynand Olivier did a good job as his replacement during the Test in PE, but Frans will offer a lot this weekend. With it being his 50th Test cap, I’m sure the whole team wants to make it a match to remember. And with Argentina pumped up for their Rugby Championship debut, this will be an exciting match-up.
‘We were very happy with the way we played during the first half of the second Test. We let ourselves down in the third one. But we have the opportunity to rectify things this weekend.’
De Villiers added that the extra preparation time the Boks received after Super Rugby has been a big advantage. Especially considering they only had several days to prepare for the June Test series.
‘We had a good two weeks of preparation, and that will make a huge difference,’ said De Villiers. ‘The Sharks players have also been very well managed since arriving after the Super Rugby final.
‘We faced several challenges ahead of the series against England. I was appointed at a late stage and we only had about three training sessions before the first Test. But now the squad feels more as a team and we are heading in the right direction together. Here’s hoping we can put together a strong performance for the full 80 minutes.’
By Gareth Duncan, in Cape Town