Jake White has labelled Frans Steyn the modern-day Danie Craven and said it is a travesty that Steyn has not played 100 Tests for the Springboks, writes Mark Keohane.
World Cup-winning Springboks coach White is the coach who first picked a teenage Steyn for the Springboks in 2006, when he started him on the wing against Ireland in Dublin.
Steyn scored a try on debut and the following week was the Springboks man of the match against England.
Steyn would be integral to White’s World Cup-winning Springboks in 2007.
Craven, celebrated the world over as South Africa’s Mr Rugby and the most influential global figure in the amateur era, coached the Springboks to a 4-0 series win against the All Blacks in 1947.
For the younger reader, Craven served South African rugby in some capacity between 1931 and his death in 1993, as player, coach and administrator.
He made his international debut against Wales at St. Helen’s in 1931 and over the course of 16 caps he became one of the leading scrum-halves in world rugby. He also played No 8 and flyhalf.
He retired from playing in 1938 after captaining the Springboks to a 2-1 series victory over the touring British & Irish Lions, a year after the Boks won a series in New Zealand for the first time.
In 1992 Craven contributed to the formation of the South African Rugby Football Union, a unified organisation that he presided over until his death in 1993. He was the third inductee in to the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame in 2007.
The South African schools competition, Craven Week, is named after him.
White told Keo.co.za: ‘Doc Craven always said that when you see a Springbok, he has to have a point of difference. Whether he is the biggest, strongest, the most skillful. Anything. He has to have a point of difference because in South Africa there are so many good rugby players.
‘In terms of Frans Steyn, he has so many points of difference. He kicks the ball further than most players can, he understands space, he has skill, he is big and strong. He is a winner. He knows how to win. Having watched him for the Springboks, the versatility in how he plays and where he plays. He can play anywhere. He can run and catch and pass and he can kick. He is so adept to playing anywhere. There are not many international players who have played flyhalf, centre, wing and fullback for a Tier One Test team. Doc Craven in his day played No 8, scrumhalf, flyhalf, centre and fullback and was capable of playing just about anywhere.
‘In Springbok rugby history, the only player, in terms of versatility, success and impact, who has ever come close to Doc Craven (the player) is Frans Steyn.
‘He should have played 100 and something Test matches. There is no doubt in my mind. He was in the wilderness with Heyneke (Meyer) and Allister (Coetzee) for whatever reasons, but in every team I have coached him in, I pick him every weekend.
‘I mean, he was our best player on his debut on the wing against Ireland in 2006 and in 2021, as a 34 year-old, playing fullback, in terrible weather in Cardiff against Wales, he was the man of the match and influential in the Boks winning. It just shows you his value to any team he plays for.’
South Africa’s most capped fullback Percy Montgomery, who retired with 102 Tests, played alongside Steyn the youngster between 2006 and 2008. Montgomery is another who played fullback, wing, centre and flyhalf for the Springboks. He lauded Steyn’s ability and credited White’s talent identification in picking a teenage Steyn and being assured the youngster would deliver.
‘Frans’s natural ability is one of his greatest attributes. Jake got it right and he told us he was bringing in this youngster who could kick the ball a mile. And that was Frans from Grey.
‘Jake surrounded him with us older guys and that is another area Jake got so right and now Frans, at 34, is that older guy inspiring those young guys. Frans has always been a winner and he was brilliant against Wales.’
Steyn, who didn’t play a Test match for five years between the age of 25 and 30, has played 72 Tests, winning two World Cups, a British & Irish Lions series and in 2007 became the youngest player to ever win a World Cup.
Springbok team to face Scotland
5️⃣0️⃣ up for Mostert and Kriel in Edinburgh on Saturday
🔁 Jantjies and Le Roux back in the Springbok starting side
🗣️ “We are under no illusions about the challenge ahead”
➡️ Team announcement: https://t.co/5GneDc3UQc#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever #SCOvRSA pic.twitter.com/XQPukQ0jlx
— Springboks (@Springboks) November 9, 2021
He has a 78 percent success rate as a Springbok.
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