Why Frans Steyn and not Elton Jantjies
REACTION: Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is adamant that utility Frans Steyn is more than capable of being a victorious ‘driver’ of the team.
He also said it would have been “unfair” to recall fellow veteran Elton Jantjies amidst the controversy swirling around his head.
Steyn, 35, will start at flyhalf in place of the injured Damian Willemse in the Rugby Championship decider against Argentina at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
Having played as a utility off the bench in the last three Tests – twice against the Wallabies and last week against Los Pumas – the two-time World Cup-winning back stands in after the team’s No.10 resources were depleted by injury and personal issues.
Handre Pollard has been sidelined with a knee injury for the rest of the year and Willemse will miss this week as a result of the concussion he suffered in last week’s win in Buenos Aires.
Jantjies is dealing with the fallout of reports about his personal life and is not with the team.
However, Nienaber felt the team has enough cover through the utilities in the squad – with Steyn starting and Francois de Klerk the cover off the bench.
Nienaber was also not concerned that Steyn, capped 77 times by the Boks, has not started regularly at flyhalf for a few years now.
“He has played for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup at flyhalf,” the Bok coach told a media briefing at the team’s training base in Durban, adding: “He has also trained a lot at flyhalf for us.”
Nienaber also defended his decision to again use De Klerk, primarily a scrumhalf, as cover at No.10 – a position where he occasionally played for his Premiership club, Sale Sharks.
“The same with Francois, who is also covering flyhalf,” he said of De Klerk – who is one of only two backs on a bench that also features six forward replacements.
“I guess if you lose a couple of flyhalves that is where you find yourself.
“We are lucky,” the coach said, adding: “Damian Willemse was the same as Frans Steyn.
“Damian can cover flyhalf, [inside] centre and fullback.
“Frans covers the same positions, maybe just with 10 more years of experience than Damian Willemse.”
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Asked if he was tempted to bring in a specialist flyhalf like Jantjies, who has 46 Test caps to his credit, Nienaber admitted the events of the last fortnight played a role in the 32-year-old’s non-selection.
“It would have been nice,” he said about the possibility of bringing Jantjies back, adding: “However, for us – with all the mental health issues, mental health being such a big thing and all the external pressure on him – from a humane side it would have been unfair to get him back in the team.
“There would be a lot of external pressure on him and for us, the person comes first.
“It would have been unfair on him.”
Nienaber also dismissed the notion of bringing in one of the many uncapped rookies in the country, despite their impressive form at No.10.
He added that they just did not have enough time to spend getting a specialist flyhalf into the system,. without compromising other positions.
Nienaber pointed to Bulls Bok Johan Goosen, 30 and 13 Tests, as the next in line in the Bok No.10 pecking order.
“Unfortunately he is also just coming back from injury,” Nienaber said about Goosen – who underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament in October last year.
“There are a bunch of nice exciting flyhalves coming through,” he said about players like Jordan Hendrikse (Lions), Manie Libbok (Stormers) and Kade Wolhuter (Stormers).
“If we continue to have injuries in that position, we won’t hesitate to give young players an opportunity.
“We gave a guy like Canan Moodie an opportunity at age 19.
“If you are good enough, you are good enough.”