Dropped flyhalf Morne Steyn will still be a key figure for the Springboks going forward, the South Africa team’s kicking coach, Louis Koen, said on Tuesday.
The out-of-form Steyn was dropped for last weekend’s Rugby Championship match against Australia and with the 20-year-old Johan Goosen starring in a 31-8 win that ended a record five-match losing streak against the Wallabies, many critics have begun writing the obituaries for Steyn’s international career.
But Koen said he believes the 28-year-old Steyn will make a rapid return to favour, despite the early succcess Goosen has enjoyed and the claims of another youngster, Currie Cup-winning flyhalf 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. 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.
“He will come back calmer, when there’s a little less pressure, and when we go on our overseas tour at the end of the year, conditions will be wetter and we’ll have to play a more tactical game. I believe Morne will still be an integral player for the Springboks in the future,” Koen told a news conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has been accused of having misplaced faith in Steyn after the hero of the Springboks’ 2009 and
2010 seasons lost his goalkicking touch and struggled to spark the team on attack.
Koen said he had logged every practice kick the Springboks have taken this year and Steyn was the most consistent kicker, succeeding with 88% of 620 attempts.
The former Springbok flyhalf said this pointed to the disappointing results on the field being a mental problem, although Koen admitted that “I’m no expert on the mental side of things”.
The kicking coach also strenuously denied that he had changed any of the goalkickers’ techniques.
“I haven’t changed one thing. Like my work with [Stormers flyhalf] Peter Grant in SuperRugby since 2005, it takes time to establish a relationship of trust and get behind their techniques. If they struggle, I’d like to get to where I can give them positive input, but at the moment I can’t do that out on the field. I’m not convinced it’s the way to go to change things right before a test,” Koen said.
Goosen is currently suffering from a bruised heel that made goalkicking painful for him and Koen said he is having to deal with his young protege’s frustration.
“Johan is very frustrated at the moment, he hasn’t been able to kick in training for two weeks. He’s worried and we just need to calm him down and tell him to focus on his natural game, which he did exceptionally well last weekend.
“But according to him, his general play is married to his goalkicking, he really feeds off it and it gives him confidence.
“The injury is to the flat pad of his heel, it’s a bone bruise. But it doesn’t affect his general play, he runs on the ball of his foot so he can definitely play even if he doesn’t kick,” Koen said.
Meanwhile, Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers praised the All Blacks set-piece for being a formidable unit.
“Against Australia the scrums are more of a technical battle, but it’s more physical against New Zealand, they see scrums like we do. They have a very strong scrummaging unit as a whole, a well-balanced front row that gives them a solid base, and a powerful back five.
“They work together really well as a unit, their timing is good so they generate speed, which is what you need because the distance is shorter these days on the hit.
“The All Blacks have one of the best scrums in the world and we’ll need to be switched on,” De Villiers said.