Morne Steyn had been a first-fiddle Springboks flyhalf, before being replaced by the emergence of Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard.
It has been a prodigal time for the former Springboks flyhalf as he returns to his former franchise, the Blue Bulls, after a successful stint in Europe.
He was meant to help ease the young man Manie Libbok into the flyhalf position for the future generations.
However, Libbok had left to join the Durban Sharks, and the Blue Bulls were back under the direction of Morne Steyn.
Prior to the re-opening of the South African-separated Super Rugby, Jake White expressed his confidence in Morne Steyn to the press. White was the man who coached South Africa to clinch a World Cup victory in 2007, and his opinion is certainly respectable.
Now, first-choice star flyhalf Handre Pollard is out with an ACL injury, and there is great debate about who there is to replace him.
In the recent clash between the Blue Bulls and the Durban Sharks, we have seen certain signs that he is the rock-solid general to steer the Boks’ ship.
He kicked off the game excellently, with the drop kick going deep into Sharks territory, and finding a bounce into touch deep into the Shark’ 22. The effect of this was territorial gain. From that lineout, the Sharks played one phase before a player booted it back infield. It was regathered before it reached halfway. The Blue Bulls regained possession in the opposition half.
His second kick of the game was a penalty line kick, which he booted from ten metres off halfway to deep into the 22. This had a big impact as that lineout turned into a maul and the Blue Bulls rumbled over the whitewash with a forward drive.
He made a series of two touches in rapid succession. He first got a good selection of runners, injecting a teammate in between two Durban Sharks defenders with a pass behind a dummy runner, punching his teammate forwards and trying the defence.
Though this is not a clean break, it is a show of his attacking direction, and after another phase, it came back to Morne Steyn to boot the ball high. This was a highly contestable bomb kick, which led to an aerial fumble. The ball was snapped up by Johnny Kotze, who stepped and sprinted away to score. Steyn set up the second try of the match.
His next touch on the ball was off the regathering of a clearance kick by the Sharks. He took the ball on the run and passed it out flat to a flanker, going out wide for another teammate to put the winger in a one-on-one with Curwin Bosch, resulting in territorial gain.
He made another great touch by snapping up a bad pass from his scrumhalf and looking to the boot, smashing a kick with a bounce to touch just into the Sharks’ 22. Surprisingly, as if fate had decided to reward him for his commanding game play, the lineout went loose, being snapped up by Schalk Erasmus. A phase more from that formed the platform for the fourth Bulls try of the game, giving Morne Steyn yet another opportunity to prove his worth.
The ball went to Steyn behind a dummy runner, who fired it out with a good bullet pass to release a teammate, who got in the space, setting up the try with draw and pass through his and another back’s hands to Kurt-Lee Arendse for Arendse’s second try of the match.
Another touch from Morne Steyn would come off an ambitious penalty touchline kick by Curwin Bosch failing to find touch. Steyn took the ball and booted it back into territory. Though this was knocked back in, the Bulls regained possession after a Sharks knock-on moments later with major territorial progress.
He set up the fifth try of the night by taking the ball from the scrum, committing with a great running line, and spinning the ball wide to release Johnny Kotze in space, with a good draw and pass from Kotze to get Travis Ismaiel his try.
Moments later, he kicked the ball deep, and after some nerve in the Sharks’ attack was stifled by the Blue Bulls over several phases, the Bulls won a penalty, overall getting possession with the territory influenced by Steyn.
He also executed a textbook touchline penalty kick, and the ball got the Blue Bulls lineout possession in the Sharks’ 22.
Another touchline kick found the Blue Bulls a lineout at the five-metre line. A lineout maul stagnated with several charging phases not breaking through, and the Blue Bulls swung it back to pivot Steyn.
This came with a slight over-the-top pass to a teammate, who got it away to another teammate. The centre was brought down, and then the play was rudely interrupted by an offside intercept. A penalty to a scrum did not work out as well, as great defensive pressure from the Sharks caused a player to knock the ball on in his attempted carry from the back of the scrum.
Steyn is a solid rock in defence, and he established this quickly with a tackle in between the 11th and 12th minutes, taking down Werner Kok with a big tackle. However, this was blemished with him being penalised for not rolling away.
He stopped a play with great defensive line speed. As soon as the ball went loose with an awry pass, he shot up and hit the scrambling opponent hard and into touch. However, play was stopped for a penalty against the Bulls.
He later was prominent in nearly stagnating the attack by holding up the Sharks’ attacker. However, he had to release the player as the man had gone to ground.
He had a total 100 per cent goal-kicking record against the Sharks, and he is certainly still the metronome he was. Most prominently, he converted one touchline conversion from the 22, which is no easy feat.
He went off after a good 53 minutes on the field, which had been a comprehensive showcase of his skills.
He took quite a bit of criticism prior to this game. For example, one Roarer commented: “Morne is simply not an option for the future”.
I also considered him a not-very-in-the-conversation contender to replace Handre Pollard. But Steyn proved us all wrong. He had a very dominant 53 minutes on the pitch and outclassed Curwin Bosch.
From this match, I see that Steyn is not only a rock in defence but also a solid flyhalf general. He influenced four tries through his passes and kicks. He is a great playmaker and a general of the game. He controlled the game with his kicking and passing to keep the Sharks on the front foot with the clock ticking over. He made each touch on the ball count, and created many opportunities. He is the best tactical kicking flyhalf in South Africa and a solid passer.
At 36, he is still very athletic and capable as ever. The Boks may have an answer in Steyn. Not only can he distribute, he can also command the game superbly, as he did against the Sharks.