When 19-year-old Francois Philippus Lodewyk Steyn burst onto the international stage at Lansdowne Road in November 2006, great things were predicted for the teenager.
The prodigiously talented player has delivered, mostly, on the promise he showed – despite the obvious ups-and-downs, which included a period of international isolation resulting from a contractual dispute with officials at Springbok headquarters.
On Saturday, at Kings Park in Durban, he will turn back the clock more than 14 years to the last time he started a Test wearing the No.10 on his back.
Steyn will be 35 years, 133 days when South Africa hosts Argentina in the Rugby Championship decider in Durban.
The last time Steyn started a Test was on 14 August 2021 – when, at age 34, he ran out as an inside centre against Argentina. The Springboks won 32-12 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, in Port Elizabeth.
The last time he started a Test at flyhalf was 21 June 2008 – against Italy at Newlands in Cape Town.
The Boks won 26-0 – with Steyn scoring a try and three conversions.
Newlands is no longer in use as a stadium, for any rugby.
In fact, it is at the centre of a significant dispute, but that is not the focus of this article.
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Only two of the players featured in that 2008 outing are still active.
Bismarck du Plessis, 38, is a member of the wider Bulls squad for the United Rugby Championship.
Ruan Pienaar, also 38, is a member of the Cheetahs squad that will feature in the European Challenge Cup from December. He relinquished the team captaincy only this week.
The rest have all retired – Tendai Mtawarira, CJ van der Linde, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Luke Watson, Juan Smith, Ryan Kankowski, Enrico Januarie, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Gcobani Bobo, Odwa Ndungane, Conrad Jantjes, Joe van Niekerk, Schalk Burger, Peter Grant, Andries Bekker, Brian Mujati and Schalk Brits.
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Victor Matfield holds the record for the oldest Springbok – 38 years, 172 days when he faced Argentina in October 2015.
He is followed by Schalk Brits (38 years, 145 days – against Canada at the World Cup in October 2019) and Johan Ackermann (37 years, 34 days – against Australia, July 2007).
Frans Steyn does not even make the top 10 of the oldest Springboks.
He comes in at No.12.
He is also not even the oldest Bok flyhalf.
That honour belongs to Morné Steyn – who is at No.4 on the all-time list, at 37 years and 34 days when he played against Argentina in August last year.
Francois Philippus Lodewyk Steyn, if he makes it to the World Cup next year, will move into the top 10 on the list of oldest Boks – at No.7, with his age at 36 years, 119 days when South Africa starts their campaign against Scotland on 10 September 2023.
Statistical source: genslin.us