Bok coach: 'I couldn't watch the fairytale unfold'
South African coach Jacques Nienaber admitted he could not look when veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn lined up a 79th-minute penalty to win the series against the British and Irish Lions.
Steyn, at 37, made a “fairytale” return – kicking the penalty that won another tight series against the B&I Lions – just as he did in the second Test of the 2009 series.
This time the kick was just 35 metres out – not from inside his own half as the series-winner 12 years ago – but it also sailed true to give the Boks a 19-16 third Test win at the Cape Town Stadium.
The B&I Lions won the first Test 22-17, following a series of contentious calls by Australian referee Nic Berry – a performance by the match official the is still reverberating around the world.
The Boks bounced back with an emphatic 27-9 win in the second Test, setting up the decider.
Steyn, who missed the first two Tests, came on as a 65th-minute replacement for Handre Pollard – who had missed two earlier penalties.
The veteran kicked two penalties, including the 79th-minute series winner, in what was described as a “fairytale” performance.
It was Steyn’s first Test in five years, with his recall coming after some sublime domestic form – having played for French giants Stade Français between 2013 and 2020.
Nienaber hailed the nerves of steel showed by Steyn, but admitted he did not have the poise to watch.
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“I’ll be honest, I was sitting with my head between my legs, I didn’t see the penalty,” Nienaber told a virtual media briefing, adding: “I didn’t see the kick.
“I’m happy for him in terms of having the opportunity to play again.
“It’s a fairytale,” the coach said, adding: “He did it 12 years ago and today [Saturday] again.
“We are blessed with three unbelievable flyhalves,” he said of Pollard, Steyn and Elton Jantjies.
Nienaber admitted they debated long and hard about who of Steyn or Jantjies should be on the bench.
“But hats off to Elton,” the coach said, adding: “He could not have been better during the week in terms of preparing us,” he said of the attacking threat of Lions flyhalf Finn Russell.
“It speaks volumes of the squad,” he said, adding that the non-matchday squad members just got on with the job of helping their teammates prepare.
“Elton was phenomenal.
“Morne’s selection was an hour-long discussion from the coaches between the two players [Steyn and Jantjies].
“But we felt his experience in this particular environment was the key.”