Koen expects Steyn to bounce back
OUTHALF MORNE Steyn still has a future with the Springboks despite being dropped after a disappointing start to the Rugby Championship, South Africa kicking coach Louis Koen said yesterday.
The Bulls outhalf missed Saturday’s 31-8 win over Australia and with 20-year-old Johan Goosen playing a key role in ending a five-match losing streak against the Wallabies, Steyn’s critics believe his international career could be over. However, Koen expects the 28-year-old to make a rapid return to favour in the face of increased competition from Goosen and Currie Cup-winning youngster Elton Jantjies.
“Morne has played a lot of rugby recently . . . for three years consecutively at a very high level, and the pressure was starting to build,” said Koen. “Fatigue does definitely have an effect on kicking, but he has a sensational technique and he will be back, I believe that with my whole heart.
“I believe Morne will still be an integral player for the Springboks in the future.”
Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer had been accused of putting too much faith in Steyn after the star of the 2009 and 2010 campaigns lost his kicking touch and struggled to spark the team on attack.
While the head coach may have finally lost patience and dropped the player, Koen said he had logged every practice kick the Springboks had taken this year and Steyn was the most consistent, succeeding on 88 per cent of his 620 attempts.
The former Springbok outhalf added that those statistics pointed to the disappointing performance being a result of a mental problem, although Koen admitted that he was “no expert on the mental side of things”.
The Springboks face New Zealand in the final round of matches in the inaugural tournament in Johannesburg on Saturday, where a victory over the newly crowned champions would secure second place in the standings.
New Zealand expect South Africa to play a more expansive game than they managed in their previous clash when the teams meet in Soweto, assistant coach Ian Foster said yesterday.
The All Blacks beat the Springboks 21-11 in Dunedin on September 15th with the visitors missing 20 points with the boot.
South Africa then scored five tries in a 31-8 win over Australia in Pretoria last Saturday.
“They seem to have the intent to play with more width than they did against us in Dunedin and they may chuck a few different things at us on Saturday. We’ll need to assess where the threats are and make the adjustments,” added Foster.
The All Blacks are also expecting a barrage of high kicks from the Springboks in the thin altitude of the highveld.