Steyn sinks Aussies
Brenden Nel
October 01, 2016

There were those in the week that scoffed when Allister Coetzee turned to Morne Steyn to save the Bok season, but South Africa’s second highest points-scorer showed he hadn’t lost his touch, scoring all 18 points as the Springboks beat Australia 18-10 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

If there were ever stories of redemption in the Springbok saga, Steyn will have a chapter that will undoubtedly be his own.

So often the reason the Boks squeaked home when they played badly, he was harassed and insulted, eventually losing his place under the previous coach with howls of despair around the country from fans whenever his name was mentioned.

But Steyn soldiered on, through the vitriol that was thrown his way, and continued to stay on the fringes waiting his turn.

And when this week arrived, and the Boks had their backs against the wall, there was only one man to turn to. The man with one of the best success rates with the boot in modern rugby. And he didn’t disappoint.

From his pinpoint drop goal at the start of the game to the audacious final strike, Steyn did what his job was. He built a scoreboard and despite the dour way the Boks played all along, he made sure they ended up with a win.

And that, on the night, was the important part.

For a beleaguered coach, under pressure after a tough season, the win was non-negotiable. It was the bare minimum that was demanded at a ground that has favoured the Boks over the years. And Steyn’s boot delivered it.

There are many aspects of the test match that were a disappointment, especially from a Springbok point of view.

From passive tackling that allowed Australia to make so many metres on attack, to the handling problems that still plague the Boks. From their stubborn decision to continue playing the game in the wrong areas, the Bok team is still struggling with their composure and confidence against an Australian side that is pretty much on the same page.

For most of this game, and especially in the second half it tipped between the scrappy and the mundane, and neither side will feel comfortable with the way they played.

There are other worries for the Boks – a long injury list tops it all with the All Blacks next week in Durban as Coetzee and co will need to find out just how much trouble the likes of Bryan Habana, Jesse Kriel and Rudy Paige are in ahead of the biggest home test of the season.

The Boks will have a long list of things to work on, and primary will be the way they allowed Australia to dominate in that second half to such an extent that they hardly exited their half. The lopsided nature of both possession and territory was compounded by the Boks' own poor handling, and especially as they tried to run themselves out of trouble for most of the match.

In short, this may have been a pass for the Boks, but it was a pass by the skin of their teeth. A necessary pass mark, but not one that will cause the All Blacks to worry too much.

Coetzee will be happy with the halfback pairing – a firm change from the erratic nature of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies – with Paige’s crisp service a highlight on the night where the Boks needed so much else to go right.

Adriaan Strauss was a worthy man of the match, putting in an inspirational captaincy performance and making his critics eat their words. On this form alone, the Bok captain may want to rethink his decision to retire at the end of the season.

There were also good cameos for Francois Louw, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, while the replacements bolstered the scrum in particular in the second half, although they didn’t always get the reward.

This was precisely what the Boks wanted - a win. It was a victory that was crafted on willpower and grit, and a determination not to lose.

While it won’t be good enough in Durban against the world champions next week, Coetzee at least can head to the coast with a little less pressure on his shoulders.

In Durban he will hope to encounter better officiating, with the trio of officials on duty at Loftus not having the brightest of days in the Pretoria sunshine. While the game was a stop-start affair all along, imagine what it would have been like if the forward passes that littered the game were all picked up? The less said about some of the decisions, the better.

In a game where both sides looked more desperate not to lose than to win, Steyn’s 18 points served a healthy reminder that we want to chase players away far too quickly in South Africa.

The Boks needed their banker at Loftus, and Steyn repaid the faith in full.


South Africa – Penalties: Morne Steyn (4). Drop Goals: Steyn (2).

Australia – Try: Scott Sio. Conversion: Bernard Foley. Penalty: Foley.

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