How Steyn will stay in Bok picture for 2023 World Cup
At 34, there is no guarantee that Francois Philippus Lodewyk Steyn will make it to the 2023 World Cup in France.
However, that does not mean the South African team management is going to discard him like a used rag.
The 72-times capped utility back still has an important role to play in the Springbok team’s build-up to the global showpiece.
Having played only 180-odd minutes in the last 10 Bok Tests, Steyn produced two sublime performances in the last two outings – a second-half replacement against New Zealand (a 31-29 win) in the last match of the Rugby Championship and coming on in the 14th minute of the 23-18 win over Wales in the opening match of their year-end tour.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber revealed that they had a specific plan set out at the start of the year-end trip, but sometimes there are stumbling blocks – such as the concussion suffered by Damian Willemse against Wales last week.
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“Every player has his place within that plan,” Nienaber said, adding: “Even when you don’t play, you still have a specific role.
“Frans knows exactly what our plan is for him and I believe he can make it to 2023.
“However, you require a bit of luck and must remain in form. He knows that and he showed last Saturday the form he has.
“He must remain medically fit and stay aligned with the vision and mindset of the Boks.
“We all – coaches and players – have to buy into the bigger plan for the Bok team.
“Frans is doing that brilliantly at this stage.”
Nienaber also explained why the likes of Sibusiso Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi did not make the cut this week, saying the quality of the opposition dictated that more seasoned players are required at Murrayfield.
“We are going to need all the experience we can in the back three,” he told a virtual media briefing.
He also praised Steyn for his “understanding” of the system, the process and for continuing to work hard within those structures.
“He is the older, established guy who you can always fall back onto,” Nienaber said of the 71-times capped utility back.
“He also allows us to give more game time to the young players coming through and allows us to build squad depth, as we build towards [the] 2023 [World Cup].”.
Steyn will add another chapter to his already storied career, when he becomes the first Springbok with an international career spanning 15 calendar years.
The 34-year-old Steyn, who has been on the winning side in 55 of his 72 Tests and scored 144 points, is continuing to be a sounding board for the younger players.
“You have to be aligned with the mindset of this Springbok team,” Nienaber said, when asked about Steyn’s endearing qualities, adding the veteran is “100 percent” aligned.
“He knows we are giving other players opportunities, he is still fulfilling his role and he is unbelievably competitive,” the coach said.
Steyn, despite the challenge of playing a supporting role, has bought into the coaching staff’s vision.
“He is not selfish in that regard,” Nienaber said, adding: “It is not about him, it is about what is the best for the Springboks.
“Despite being over 30, he still trains every training session. He has missed only two or three training sessions all year.
“He is not somebody that backs off at training, despite having been in the [international] game for 15 years.
“He doesn’t expect special treatment.
“Obviously he is a brilliant player. His experience counts for a lot, as we saw [this past] Saturday.
“[He has a] great mindset, buying into the team mentality, trains every day and he is a brilliant player.”