Morne must show mettle

RYAN VREDE writes Morne Steyn needs to continue his goal- and tactical-kicking form if he is to be a justifiable pick for the Springboks’ year-end tour.

Steyn was very good in these disciplines in the Bulls’ 50-29 victory over the Lions at Ellis Park at the weekend, kicking 22 points, a number of those from difficult angles. His tactical kicking, whether high punts or drives into space, were accurate and put the Bulls into good positions from which they were able to exert pressure on the Lions and force penalties or turnovers.

This is pertinent because Steyn is certainly still in the Springbok mix for the year-end tour, despite being dropped from the match-day squad for the home Rugby Championship Tests against Australia and New Zealand. Indeed coach Heyneke Meyer may well reinstate him to a starting role in light of Johan Goosen’s injury-enforced absence and his belief that Steyn’s strengths will suit the conditions they are expected to face in Europe.

It is imperative that Meyer doesn’t select Steyn on his potential to deliver the accuracy in execution, but on an observable rise in his form in this regard. The Bulls’ pattern mimics the Springboks’ (the one they will implement on tour) almost exactly, so the comparison is a like for like one. It relies heavily on the flyhalf’s ability to play for field position and to convert penalties into points. On the evidence of their inconsistent attacking play in the Rugby Championship, goal conversion will take on added importance.

Steyn’s poor goal-kicking in the Dunedin Test against the All Blacks ultimately cost him his Springbok shirt. He had also kicked badly by his standards throughout the Bulls’ Super Rugby campaign, which Meyer suggested was a consequence of a three-year run without an adequate break.

Steyn’s shooting boot became progressively more erratic as the pressure on him mounted with the Springboks, but he responded well under significant pressure at Ellis Park (the Bulls needed to win to make the play-offs). A better measure of the health of his fractured confidence will come at Kings Park on Saturday, where he has not played well this season, bombing with the Bulls in their 32-10 Super Rugby defeat and failing to impress for the Springboks against England in June.

The Sharks pack were dominant in the aforementioned fixture, bossing the Bulls’ heavies at the gainline on defence and in so doing cutting down the space and time Steyn had to operate in. I suspect this will be the case once more, and Steyn will be hard pressed for a telling rebuttal.

But he must show mettle, particularly when presented with goal-kicking opportunities. I would understand the logic of Meyer picking him above Elton Jantjies for the year-end tour, but I will never accept handouts for struggling players. Steyn must prove himself deserving of a Springbok return.

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