Australian Test referee Nic Berry, who was left distressed at a video “character assassination” from Rassie Erasmus, has got an apology from the South African director of rugby.
At 37 years old, Morne Steyn kicked a winning penalty to secure South Africa’s back-to-back victory over the British Irish Lions.
Steyn broke Lions hearts 12 years ago and 12 years later, a matured, older veteran smashed the long-range shot straight through the uprights, writing himself and the Springboks into history once again.
He certainly has cemented his status as a figurehead of South African rugby – while he has many critics, the sheer level of respect he gets from teammates like Bryan Habana and Jean De Villiers speaks volumes.
What really made him iconic was his last-minute, heart-breaking kicks. He’d be notching over at least 85 per cent for both club and country, and his goal-kicking was a core factor in the Boks’ success in his heyday, as well as for the Bulls in 2020-21.
He was a team man, always doing what was best for the team – he cared about the bigger picture.
With Jacques Nienaber announcing that he initially had planned for the veteran to stay on till 2023, he was certainly still in the mix. He would add the game management factor as a ‘bomb squad’ option, an alternative to the attacking creativity of Elton Jantjies.
Yet he has called time on his international career at 68 caps, which was also the number of points he scored in the 2011 World Cup, a competition at which he was the top scorer.
Morne was always a rugged defender who never shied from contact, courageously producing big hits.
While he was never regarded as a classy distributor, he had a solid passing hand to add to a strong kicking game and impeccable booting for the uprights.
I noted in my article last year that he had a distribution masterclass against the Sharks, which demonstrated how well-rounded he was.
Here he executes a good pass to open up Cornal Hendricks, who gave a lovely wide, flat pass to free up the winger to score.
At the Bulls, Steyn had become an initial distributor, while Hendricks was the creative playmaker to exploit space and make those killer passes.
This really demonstrates how much Steyn developed as a player, to now creating opportunities with his passing instead of merely hoisting clever up-and-unders.
He has become better with age and the Springboks will miss him. He has always been the man to tame the Lions, which was what made him an icon for South Africa. His winning kicks brought jubilation to supporters as their team prevailed over the Lions.
As he retires, it is good to reminisce about what Morne Steyn has done for Springbok rugby – being a dependable flyhalf and truly serving the role of a team man.