The Bulls are doing themselves no favours by giving veteran the majority of the time on-field
Is “mentoring” South Africa’s young flyhalves doing more harm than good?
When the news broke last year that Morné Steyn would be returning to the Bulls, the first thing that crossed my mind was how the move would impact the growth of Manie Libbok, how it would impact the opportunities he would get. And, only two weeks into the 2020 Super Rugby season, we’ve got a decent impression of how things are going to work in Pretoria.
I get it, Steyn brings experience. He played over a 100 games for Stade Francais since joining them in 2013 and represented the Bulls in 124 games between 2008 and 2013. He is still the leading all-time points scorer for the franchise. And then there is his neat stat of representing the Springboks in 66 Tests.
It’s all impressive, seriously.
But at 35-years-old, Steyn represents the past and the present at most. And if the Bulls continue starting him at No 10, they are giving the real future no real chance to get comfortable in that run-on blue jumper.
Now I’m not saying Libbok can’t learn from Steyn, you would be a fool not to lend your ear and take notes from someone whose list of appearances and points would be at home on a 10-foot scroll, but he doesn’t have to be imparting his knowledge from the starting line-up. Besides, has he done enough in their first two games to prove otherwise?
You can argue it depends on what game the Bulls want to play. You can argue that it could come down to a horses-for-courses thing. But the Bulls are doing themselves no favours by giving Steyn the majority of the time on-field.
Look at this past weekend – there is one thing Steyn brings that not too many others can rival, and that is his boot. But you also have to ask whether that is a big part of the reason why the Bulls’ tries-scored column is dryer than England’s 2019 trophy cabinet.
Maybe the Bulls are just building around that too much. But how is that going to take them forward, unless they want to revert to their tradional blueprint? And if that is the case, than Loftus is no place for Libbok anyway.
When Libbok came on in the last quarter of their 13-0 loss to the Stormers, he immediately provided a spark. He made a break that resembled the closest thing to a try-scoring opportunity the Bulls had until then, before Cornal Hendriks’ blunder. That’s the kind of thing he does, easily.
The fact that Libbok plays second-fiddle to Steyn influences not just him but the halfback combination as a unit, it affects Bok scrumhalf Embrose Papier as well. After all, you won’t see Pote Human going for Papier alongside Steyn.
It just won’t work.
Again, Libbok can learn from Steyn. One never knows everything.
But making him Steyn’s back-up will do no good for Libbok’s career in terms of growth, and it will do the Bulls’ attacking game no good either.
He is better than that anyway.