Morne Steyn was happy with his performance during the Springboks’ 27-6 win over Argentina in Cape Town, but recognises the importance of maintaining form.
After a poor campaign during Super Rugby and the June Test series against England, the Springbok No 10 entered the Rugby Championship under immense pressure to perform. He was rated as the worst goal-kicker among the South African flyhalves, having only achieved a 76% success rate (84 from 110 attempts) for the Bulls. He also only managed a 57% success rate (13 from 23 attempts) over the three Tests against England.
Pundits argued that if Steyn wasn’t performing well from the kicking tee, he had to be dropped. However, head coach Heyneke Meyer defended his first-choice pivot, pointing to physical and mental fatigue as the reason for his inconsistency as the player has featured in every possible Super Rugby game and Test over the last three seasons.
Meyer believed that the two-week break after Super Rugby would give Steyn enough time to prepare himself for the Rugby Championship. And the 28-year-old repaid this faith by playing a key role in the victory over the Pumas last weekend, converting all four of his goal attempts. Two of them came from difficult angles.
Steyn creditted close attention to his goal-kicking and ignoring the critics for his improved display at Newlands.
‘The performance was a good start to the Rugby Championship. Hopefully the critics can say better things and I can continue doing well,’ Steyn told keo.co.za. ‘I don’t think there was major hassles with regards to my goal kicking. I just worked really hard on my game.
‘The two-week break definitely helped. It’s something all the players didn’t have in a while. The rest did us all well and the hard work paid off on the field on Saturday. I also tried to avoid what the media was saying and listened to the right people. When I converted my first kick, I knew it was going to be a good day.
‘But next weekend, the pressure is back on us and me. I need to maintain this form, for the good of the team and to keep the critics quiet.’
Steyn was also happy with his cross kick in the second half, which created a try for wing Bryan Habana: ‘That was a highlight moment. It’s always good when you play a part in scoring tries.’
However, the Boks missed out on a great opportunity to claim a four-try bonus point against Argentina. When they built a comfortable lead in the first half, they turned down kickable penalties to search for the whitewash. But they still felt one try short.
Steyn hopes the team’s finishing will improve as the Rugby Championship progresses.
‘We backed our forwards to do the job up front, that’s why the captain called to go for the lineouts. We created good opportunities and really wanted those four tries. But it wasn’t our day.
‘The big positive was the fact that we didn’t concede any tries. That’s a big focus for us, we don’t want to leak tries during the tournament.’
By Gareth Duncan