Bulls coach and 2007 World Cup winning Springboks coach Jake White has backed public sentiment to include veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn for the Springboks Test series against the British & Irish Lions.
‘Morne’s a winner,’ White told Keo.co.za ‘He has won trophies for the Bulls in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby. He has won trophies in France. He has played 66 Tests, beaten the British & Irish Lions to decide the 2009 Test series with the most incredible pressure kick and most importantly he is the form flyhalf in South Africa.’
White, who has started Steyn at No 10 for the Bulls since the player’s return from France a year ago, lauded the growth of Steyn as a rugby player because of the seven years spent playing for Stade Francais in France’s Top 14 and the Europe’s Heineken Cup.
‘I had never coached Morne in South Africa, so I can’t speak about any changes in terms of his personal growth, although it would be natural he would be more rounded for his experience overseas. From a rugby perspective I saw the changes to his game while I was coaching in France and he was playing for Stade,’ said White.
‘He was always a quality player in a very good Bulls team that won three Super Rugby titles and dominated domestic rugby in that time. He is without comparison as a goal kicker in South Africa, in terms of his accuracy and ability to convert pressure kicks and anyone who scores 31 points in a Test against the All Blacks can play a bit of rugby.
‘Morne was very privileged to play flyhalf outside of the incomparable Fourie du Preez, but it also meant that he wasn’t required to be the play maker or the general in those years at the Bulls and with the Springboks. Fourie did that job and Morne’s primary role was to convert opportunities into points.
‘In France, the responsibility of being the general was his and each season he improved in how he took charge of match situations and how he read the game and took the big decisions of when to play field position and when to pass. He also showed an appetite to play flatter on attack and his defence, always solid, got better.
‘He has been a pleasure to coach in the past year and it is the first time I have worked with him. He turns 37 just before the Lions series starts but that’s no disadvantage in my book. He has shown me as much enthusiasm to learn as he has shown an appetite to teach. He and 26 year-old flyhalf Chris Smith have alternated the role at the Bulls and while I know how much Chris’s all-round game has improved because of Morne’s presence, there are also attacking elements Morne has improved on because of Chris. Then there’s the influence of former Springbok Chris Rossouw as a coach among the backs. Chris (Rossouw) has been outstanding and both Morne and Chris have made gains because of Chris (Rossouw).
‘I don’t look at age of a player. He can be 18 or 38. If he can still do it, is the form player and can add value to the team, then I pick him. Morne would add value to any Springboks campaign. When you are talking a pressure series like the Lions, you want a bloke who has been there and done it on the big stage. Morne is that guy.’
White acknowledged the pecking order of Handre Pollard first and then the rest, based on the 2019 World Cup campaign and Pollard’s qualities as a Test No 10.
‘We are assuming a fit Handre Pollard starts,’ White said. ‘The discussion around Morne is about the other No 10 Bok options. It is also a discussion that extends to a match 23 and the role he can play if introduced in the last 30 minutes or called upon in the first three minutes.
‘He has done it before against the Lions and it would be something of a fairytale if he came full circle 12 years later and did it again in a triumphant Springboks effort.’
White added that Steyn’s inclusion in the Springboks alignment squads added more zip to his game in the Rainbow Cup.
‘He definitely has mentally gone to another level since the national coaches showed there was still an interest in him and he has responded brilliantly for the Bulls.’
Steyn, who made his Test debut as a 64th minute replacement in the 1st Test against the Lions in Durban in 2009, kicked the 55 metre extra time penalty to win the Boks the second Test and the series at Loftus, Pretoria.
His last Test was in 2016 in Durban when the All Blacks destroyed the Springboks 57-15.
He returned to South Africa after playing 135 matches in seven years in France.
He has scored 736 points in 66 Tests.
Steyn the record breaker
- World record for most points scored by a player who has scored all their team’s points (31).
- Most points scored against New Zealand (31) in a single test
- South African record for penalties in a test (8) – beating the seven achieved twice by former fullback and now kicking coach of South Africa, Percy Montgomery.
- All of the above records achieved with his 31 points scored in the Tri Nations 2009 match against the All Blacks in Durban on 1 Aug 09
- South African record for most points in a test against Australia.
- Fastest 100 points by a Springbok (8 Test matches, 3 as replacement)
- Fastest 200 points by a Springbok (16 Test matches)
- Fastest 300 points by a Springbok (24 Test matches)
- Fastest 400 points by a Springbok (33 Test matches)
- Fastest 500 points by a Springbok (43 Test matches)
- Fastest 600 points by a Springbok (50 Test matches)
- Fastest 700 points by a Springbok (62 Test matches)
- Most drop-goals in a Super Rugby season (11).
- Most points scored against the All Blacks in a Test for a Springbok (31).
- Most points in a Tri Nations match (31) v All Blacks.
- Most drop goals in a Super Rugby game (4) (in the 2009 Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders)
- Most drop goals in Super Rugby (25)
- Most drop goals in a Super Rugby season (11 in 2009)
- Most penalties in a Super Rugby season (51 in 2010)
- Most points in a Super Rugby season (263) – Beating Dan Carter’s record of 221 set in 2006.
- Most points by a Bulls player in Super Rugby history (1,467)
- Most points by a South African and first South African to reach 1,000 points in Super Rugby (1,467)
- Steyn also holds the record for most consecutive successful kicks at goal in Test play since statistics for that category were first kept in the late 1980s. He had a streak of 41 successful attempts that ended on 6 November 2010 against Ireland.
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