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Steyn delighted to be back in Bok fold

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“The thing is I’m not going to have another 10 years to make a wrong right that’s why I’m more serious about Test rugby now.”

Frans Steyn says hes good to go as the Rugby World Cup draws closer. Picture: Christiaan Kotze BackpagePix

When he wore the No 12 Springbok jersey in the World Cup final in 2007 he was a fresh-faced youngster without a fear in the world. Fast forward 12 years and Frans Steyn is a mature, hugely experienced campaigner and a vital cog in coach Rassie Erasmus’ 31-man squad for this year’s World Cup in Japan. Just this time, the nerves are jangling.

Steyn took over the inside centre position from Jean de Villiers, who got injured early in the tournament in 2007, having been picked by Jake White for the first time the previous year.

By the time the World Cup came around a year later Steyn was 20 and had just eight caps to his name. According to White, the blond-haired bomber showed no nerves during the tournament and he would go on to become one of this country’s most travelled and experienced campaigners.

In 2011, aged 24 and with 43 Bok Tests behind him, Steyn was back in the World Cup squad, this time under the guidance of Peter de Villiers. He didn’t feature in 2015 when Heyneke Meyer was in charge, but roll on 2019 and Steyn is back.

At 32 he’s by no means the oldest in the squad (that honour belongs to Schalk Brits at 38), but having played for the Sharks, Racing Metro, Montpellier and Toshiba Brave Lupus in Japan and having also picked up 60 Test caps along the way, Steyn is a man who’s seen and done it all.

But, he admitted this week after being named in the Springbok squad for the Japan World Cup the nerves get to him at times nowadays.

“It’s changed I didn’t used to get nervous. When you’re young you don’t worry that much, but now I get nervous before big Tests,” he said. “The stress is definitely there nowadays my undies have always got a hole in them after a game,” he joked.

“The thing is I’m not going to have another 10 years to make a wrong right that’s why I’m more serious about Test rugby now.”

Steyn though remains a laid-back character and is just happy to be a part of a Bok World Cup squad again. “I’m going to Japan to have fun and to do the best I can. It feels good being the only survivor from 2007 I sometimes feel like the old man of the team, but I know Schalk’s older than me.

“Look, I’m so happy to be in the mix again after missing out in 2015. I definitely thought I was finished with Bok rugby after not playing four years ago, so I’m so grateful for another opportunity and crack at a World Cup.”

While Steyn is an experienced campaigner and covers several positions in the backline, his inclusion in Erasmus’ final squad has not been without questions being asked about his fitness and readiness for the tournament. Since his recall this year he has not started one game and only played a limited number of minutes from off the bench. He, however, said he was good to go.

“I’m comfortable with where I am. It’s taken some time to get used to everything in the squad; things have changed a lot since the last time I was in a Bok squad,” he said.

“I feel confident. I hope we go to Japan and have a good tournament. I hope every player has a massive tournament and gets an opportunity to play.”

Steyn also only has praise for coach Erasmus, who he worked with for the first time way back in 2011.

“I’ve known Rassie for a long time he was coach of the Cheetahs still, and playing with his lights, when I played in my first Currie Cup campaign. In 2011, when the Boks were playing in the Tri-Nations overseas, some of the squad members stayed behind and we trained under Rassie in Rustenburg.

“I’ve always liked the way he coaches he looks at things differently, sees things others don’t, and he’s honest , and that’s a big thing for me.”

The Boks fly out to Japan on Friday.

Jacques van der
Westhuyzen