Frans the floating fullback

RICHARD FERGUSON is of the opinion that Frans Steyn will yet again find himself floating up and down the backline for the Sharks this Super Rugby season.

Frans Steyn returned to the Sharks last year and made an immediate impact in midfield, bolstering the team as an extra carrier in midfield and adding the long range penalty option. He was prohibited from taking part in the playoffs thanks to a SANZAR rule, and he had to make do with a few extra Springbok caps for the rest of the year, before injuring himself.

This season started with a bang as he got handed the captaincy in the absence of Keegan Daniel, and his performances took a backseat while he led the team. Steyn has been struggling to find his fitness since returning from injury, with coach John Plumtree expecting him to lose another 6kgs at least to be at his prime weight and regain full fitness.

One thing that Plumtree did mention in the very same statement, was that he thought Steyn’s future was at fullback.

Steyn has experience at international level in three position, flyhalf, centre and fullback, and while he prefers to be in midfield, his best contributions in both Super Rugby and Test level has come while at fullback.

In terms of the Sharks team, a shift to fullback will mean a move for Louis Ludik, one of the form Sharks backs at the moment. Ludik has shown he is one of the best fullbacks in South Africa in the past two seasons, and a move to either the wing or the bench could see him packing his bags very soon. A shift to wing will mean the promising Lwazi Mvovo will in all likelihood miss out, and we have seen his deadly finishing skills in both the Sharks jersey and the Green and Gold.

Leaving Steyn in the midfield would result in another juggling act altogether, with three very good players fighting it out for position. Paul Jordaan and Tim Whitehead proved to be a great midfield combination during the Currie Cup, and Plumtree is of the opinion that they are his first choice combination, should both be fit. This hasn’t been a problem with Whitehead out injured, but he is set to return to the team after the bye, and this is when the Plumtree juggling act will start.

As for Steyn and his place with the Springboks, Heyneke Meyer has used him in midfield to date, opting for Zane Kirchner as the first choice fullback. If we are all honest, Zane is a solid fullback who plays to the gameplan Meyer puts in front of him, but he has failed to really make an impact that makes you sit up and take note. Whether Frans can do that from the back, remains to be seen.

There will be arguments both for and against a shift to fullback for Frans, the key will be for his provincial coach and the national coach to be in contact and make sure he plays in the same position for both club and country.