27 June 2009 is a date that one person in South Africa will forever cherish. That was the day Morné Steyn won the Springboks the series against the British and Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld, a ground he called home for many years and still deep down longs for whenever he steps out onto that hallowed turf in Pretoria.
Fast forward five years, 75 minutes into the Castle Lager Championship Test against Australia in Perth, the Springboks were leading the Wallabies 17-23 and Steyn gets a penalty on the Boks own tryline. All that was needed is a simple kick into touch and the Boks would have the right to throw into the lineout and play down the clock and claim a famous victory on Aussie soil yet again, but sadly his kick did not find touch and the Wallabies counter attacked, only for Rob Horne to snatch a win from the claws of death and the men in Green & Gold lost.
That was the day everyone in South Africa including Steyn’s long time coach Heyneke Meyer lost faith in his match-winning ability and he found himself entrenched on the bench or out of the matchday 23 for the following two years with tiny cameos here and there.
What is sad about all of this is how one single moment tarnished a legend’s career for some inexplicable reason still unknown to most and we would like to look at how Morné Steyn’s records should speak louder than any mistake he ever made and why he is the current guy for the job at number ten for the Springboks.
Morné’s Test Stats
Something a lot of people also forget is the amount of records the Cape Town born Steyn has to his name at all levels of rugby:
- World record for most points scored by a player who has scored all their team’s points (31).
- Most points scored against New Zealand (31) in a single test
- South African record for penalties in a test (8) – beating the seven achieved twice by former fullback and now kicking coach of South Africa, Percy Montgomery.
- All of the above records achieved with his 31 points scored in the Tri Nations 2009 match against the All Blacks in Durban on 1 Aug 09
- South African record for most points in a test against Australia.
- Fastest 100 points by a Springbok (8 Test matches, 3 as replacement)
- Fastest 200 points by a Springbok (16 Test matches)
- Fastest 300 points by a Springbok (24 Test matches)
- Fastest 400 points by a Springbok (33 Test matches)
- Fastest 500 points by a Springbok (43 Test matches)
- Fastest 600 points by a Springbok (50 Test matches)
- Fastest 700 points by a Springbok (62 Test matches)
- Most drop-goals in a Super Rugby season (11).
- Most points scored against the All Blacksfor a Springbok (31).
- Most points in a Tri Nations match (31).
- Most drop goals in a Super Rugby game (4) (in the 2009 Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders)
- Most drop goals in Super Rugby (25)
- Most drop goals in a Super Rugby season (11 in 2009)
- Most penalties in a Super Rugby season (51 in 2010)
- Most points in a Super Rugby season (263) – Beating Dan Carter’s record of 221 set in 2006.
- Most points by a Bulls player in Super Rugby history (1,467)
- Most points by a South African and first South African to reach 1,000 points in Super Rugby (1,467)
- Steyn also holds the record for most consecutive successful kicks at goal in Test play since statistics for that category were first kept in the late 1980s. He had a streak of 41 successful attempts that ended on 6 November 2010 against Ireland. The previous record was 36, held by Chris Paterson of Scotland.
This man has paid more than his dues to deserve the treatment he gets as one of South Africa’s all-time best Springboks and to put all this in perspective is the amazing story of how he once did not even know how to kick a rugby ball to where he became the best flyhalf in world rugby until that fateful day in Perth.
This all stemmed from his primary school days in Bloemfontein where one of his first coaches was Gysie Pienaar, former Springbok fullback. Springbok fans will recall that Pienaar was an ardent fan of running rugby, and counter-attacked from the back more often than he kicked.
Ruan Pienaar, son of Gysie was also in Fichardtpark Primere Skool and the kids in that school ran like the wind. Ruan at scrumhalf did not kick too much and Morné at 10 only passed or ran himself and this resulted in Steyn never really acquiring much or any kicking skills at all.
Steyn went to the modest Sand du Plessis for his high schooling career, where he continued with his adventurous approach to flyhalf play and once he left school he went to the Bulls where they took one look at his game and told him he would not make it if he did not learn to become a good kicker of the ball.
This is hard to believe considering he now boasts an immaculate kicking game, which could, with time, quite possibly be the best in the world.
Steyn was said to have looked to England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson for inspiration, and ended up working with Wilkinson’s kicking coach Dave Alred, as well as Bulls kicking coach Vlok Cilliers, who ironically, was a Sevens star in his playing days at Western Province.
Back then already Meyer lauded Steyn for his mental toughness and his ability to not crack under pressure and on Saturday he showed it again when “he” beat the Wallabies single handed to put the Boks on the winning track.
With all this said and done, is it not time we give him the respect he has earned and put our trust in Steyn until our Coach knows what his gameplan is going forward?