Un­rav­el­ling the enig­matic Frans Steyn, on and off the field

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - DARRYN POL­LOCK

Frans Steyn is an enigma. Al­ways has been, and prob­a­bly al­ways will. But he is un­de­ni­ably an in­cred­i­ble tal­ent that has never not had a role to play in the Spring­boks, even when he has been ab­sent from the set-up. Now, af­ter a five year hia­tus, where does this prodi­gal son fit in?

Steyn’s early in­ter­ac­tions with the Spring­boks will al­ways be re­mem­bered for the way in which this pre­co­cious tal­ent stepped into the boots of one of South Africa’s pre­mier cen­tres, Jean de Vil­liers, to take the Boks to World Cup glory in 2007, at the ten­der age of 20.

How­ever, Steyn’s ac­tual in­tro­duc­tion to the na­tional side came in a pretty spe­cial Test in 2006 where he started on the left wing against Ire­land wear­ing the com­mem­o­ra­tive 1906 cen­te­nary jersey, and in true Steyn style, scored a try on de­but.

That Test is a per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of a lot of Steyn’s qual­i­ties. He stood out from day one with his abil­ity and his ver­sa­til­ity to play all across the back­line, and to grab the head­lines with a pow­er­ful try. He was brought into the in­ter­na­tional spot­light sport­ing a dif­fer­ent look in a white col­lared, all green jersey, and since then has al­ways been a player that has not gone about things in the usual way.

Although it may not seem like much to­day, Steyn was her­alded as a back­line be­he­moth at 1.9 me­tres tall and 100kgs with the abil­ity to play fly­half, full­back, cen­tre and even wing; prob­a­bly flank too if asked.

As Steyn’s rep­u­ta­tion grew, he be­came in­te­gral at the Sharks as well as in the Boks’ set up. His can­non of a boot saw him slot­ting long range penal­ties and fa­mous drop goals, but he soon felt the need for more.

Steyn was a bit of a wa­ter­shed case when he signed for French club Rac­ing Metro in 2010 at only 23. The for­mer Grey Col­lege stu­dent had a lot to of­fer, and de­sired to show­case it on some of the big­gest and most di­verse of stages. When you have won the World Cup barely out of your teens, it will be hard to chase those highs again.

Dra­mat­i­cally, in 2013, Steyn made a big state­ment by walk­ing out on the Spring­boks in the mid­dle of a Test week, be­fore they were due to play Wales in Dur­ban. Brand name rights ap­peared to be at the cen­tre of the dis­pute, and Steyn was happy to stick to his prin­ci­ples than play for the Boks as he con­sid­ered his in­ter­na­tional future. That was the last Steyn was seen in a green and gold jersey, un­til last week. A very dif­fer­ent Frans Steyn walked through the team’s ho­tel doors in Plet­ten­berg Bay as prepa­ra­tions be­gan for this French se­ries. In what must be seen as a pos­i­tive, Steyn is no longer the cen­tre of the Spring­bok uni­verse. He has so much to of­fer, but the ego, self im­por­tance and weight of ex­pec­ta­tion is far re­moved. Steyn comes into the team with a very dif­fer­ent role, and while his spot on the field, the bench, or even just in the squad is de­bated, his role as a men­tor is much more straight­for­ward. Steyn is now 30 and has spent many years play­ing in South Africa, for South Africa, and in France with some of the big­gest names in world rugby. To say he has a few tips and tricks, and sto­ries to tell, is an un­der­state­ment. The word from the Bok camp al­ready is that Steyn has been giv­ing unique in­sight into the op­po­si­tion hav­ing played with and against many of them.

Ad­di­tion­ally, there are a lot of green and untested play­ers in the squad, and go­ing back to the 20-year-old World Cup win­ner, Steyn can of­fer a lot of calm­ness and ad­vice as to how to han­dle the pres­sures of in­ter­na­tional rugby.

But where does Steyn ac­tu­ally fit in when the team sheet is be­ing writ­ten up?

Steyn, at 30, is not ex­actly one for the future in the Bok set up, he is there to fill a role that goes be­yond his play­ing abil­ity, so it has to be re­mem­bered that pref­er­ence should be go­ing to those who are ear­marked for greater things.

This im­me­di­ately puts Steyn to­wards an im­pact player off the bench, but what an im­pact to have! Steyn has the ver­sa­til­ity to cover a host of po­si­tions in the backs which makes him a lux­ury to have on the bench - es­pe­cially if a six-two split is in the off­ing.

Com­ing off the bench, Steyn can be a hand­ful too. He has been coached through much of his ca­reer to use his phys­i­cal­ity over his skill, but sadly his skill is equally good, if not bet­ter - but highly un­der uti­lized. As the mav­er­ick he is in per­son­al­ity, so is he in skill. Steyn will at­tempt the ou­tra­geous if given li­cence, so when the op­po­si­tion tires, and the game is tight, who bet­ter to break the ad­van­tage line, make the mir­a­cle pass, and kick the 60 me­tre penal­ties?

This crop of Spring­boks are try­ing to rein­vent their game; skills over pure brawn. In Steyn they have the tra­di­tional brawn, but they have this la­tent abil­ity with ball in hand, wait­ing to be given the green light, a light Al­lis­ter Coet­zee has given judg­ing by the time he had at Lof­tus.

There is also no fear in hand­ing Steyn the start­ing jersey, prefer­ably at No 12 which many her­ald his great­est po­si­tion. Lit­tle will faze the vet­eran and he will not shirk any re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Of course, hav­ing Steyn in the same ho­tel as guys who are barely 20 them­selves is a huge as­set, and one mit­i­gat­ing ar­gu­ment for why for­eign based Boks should be al­lowed to play for their coun­try. Don’t pun­ish those with price­less ex­pe­ri­ence who have paid their dues - al­low the veter­ans who can con­trib­ute to be part of the Boks set up and let them re­mind the new gen­er­a­tion of that win­ning cul­ture from 2007, 08, 09.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.