Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Why Boks picked Steyn ahead of Jantjies at 10 for Pumas Test

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber has come under fire for not picking a young back-up flyhalf this season, but on Tuesday he gave his reasons for sticking with the established group.

Frans Steyn will return to the Springbok flyhalf position for the first time in 14 years, after he was named to start against Argentina in their Rugby Championship finale in Durban on Saturday.

The Boks have continued to back most of the players that have done the business in their last two games, as they made just two changes to the starting 15, with one enforced, as Steyn comes in for the injured Damian Willemse, and Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to flank in place of Franco Mostert.

The last time Steyn started at flyhalf for the Boks was back in 2008 against Italy in Cape Town, however coach Jacques Nienaber believes that he has what it takes to do the job, and that Faf de Klerk will be an able backup for him in the position.

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“He’s played flyhalf for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and he’s obviously trained a lot at flyhalf for us. It’s the same with Faf who’s covering flyhalf. I guess if you lose a couple of flyhalves that’s where you sit in terms of the team,” explained Nienaber.

“But we are lucky. Damian Willemse is the same as Frans. He covers flyhalf, centre, fullback, and Frans covers the same, just with 10 years more experience than Damian.”

Questioned on whether he had considered bringing Elton Jantjies back into the fold, despite his recent transgressions, Nienaber admitted that he wanted to but didn’t think it was the right time.

“It would’ve been nice (to bring Jantjies back in). But with mental health issues and mental health being such a big thing, and the external pressures that are on him from a human side it would have been unfair to him to bring him back in,” said Nienaber.

“Obviously there would be a lot of external pressure on him and for us the person comes first. So it would have been lovely, but unfortunately I think it would be unfair on him.”

Young flyhalves

Nienaber was also queried on why he hadn’t picked one of the younger up and coming flyhalves to be part of the Bok alignment camps earlier in the season, so that they could have been called upon in a situation like this.

“I think if you go that route you will have five specialist flyhalves and you will never use five specialist flyhalves. If you go to a World Cup you can probably take two specialist flyhalves and then your next backups within the squad will be guys that cover the position,” said Nienaber.

“I think all teams are made up like that. If we had gone with five specialist flyhalves even to an alignment camp, the time and effort that we put into a player would have been diminished. That dilutes your time with a specialist position and there is so much detail that goes in.

“We forget about a guy like Johan (Goosen), he is our third choice specialist, and he is still coming back from injury.

“Then there are four players in the URC that you can mention, like Jordan (Hendrikse), Manie (Libbok), Kade (Wolhutter). It is a bunch of nice exciting flyhalves coming through and if we have continuous injuries in that position we would give them an opportunity.”