Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Steyn stakes his claim to No 10 Bok jersey

Heyneke Meyer. Photo / Getty Images
Heyneke Meyer. Photo / Getty Images

New Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has a long history with the Bulls.

He supervised them to a Super rugby title and four Currie Cup successes during seven years with them.

After several abortive attempts, he won promotion to the top rugby job in South Africa and will have to shelve any favouritism for the men from Pretoria when he picks his initial squad for the June internationals.

The sight of Bulls five-eighths Morne Steyn banging goals through the sticks at Waikato Stadium last night will have given Meyer a sense of certainty about his choice for the man in the No 10 Springbok jersey.

Even if Steyn and his mates looked out of place in their visiting pink ensemble, there was nothing out of sync in Steyn's work. He nailed his opening kicks from in front, distance or the sideline. It didn't matter as the Prince of Pretoria brought his kicking laser to Hamilton.

Steyn is unlike most five-eighths in New Zealand. He prefers to sit back in the pocket to direct play with his boot rather than his pass or sneaky runs. He can bring those parts to his play but they are not his preferred style.

Opposite him Aaron Cruden, rated second behind Daniel Carter in this country, brought a much greater variety to his game and some serious quality as well.

If Meyer thought about a change for the Springboks, he had options.

Peter Grant plays a similar game for the Stormers, Elton Jantjies is a young player who mixes his game well for the Lions and Patrick Lambie is a multi-talented choice at the Sharks where he can play at fullback or five-eighths.

Cheetahs' teenage No 10 Johan Goosen had been a compelling prospect until he dislocated his shoulder several weeks ago when he fell awkwardly while scoring a try.

Now the choice must be Steyn with Lambie in the squad as a utility backup.

Steyn was back to his best after a few games where his radar suffered interference. His goalkicking was imperious, his restarts were on the money, his tactical kicking was accurate.

Meyer has promised a strong Boks response after some of the erratic times under the stewardship of Peter de Villiers. The Boks will be organised, they will be well structured with a tight defensive screen backed by the Steyn adding machine.

It does not matter to the Bulls if they tick over the scoreboard in multiples of three and it will not concern Meyer either.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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