12 or 15? Take your pick, Francois

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 5 Dec 2008 at 11:16
Tagged with : , , ,

After such a negative article yesterday, I reckon it’s time to counter by discussing some positives. Francois Steyn, precocious talent that he is, may have turned in a woeful performance at flyhalf on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean that the youngster can’t still have a huge impact for both the Sharks and Springboks in 2009. The only question is, where?

The most important thing to remember about Steyn is that he is still only 21 years old. The 27-test veteran made his first-class and international début at only 19 and he has become such a fixture on the scene that it’s easy to forget that he still has easily a decade of top rugby ahead of him. In the words of the Carpenters, “we’ve only just begun…” and there’s plenty of time to mould Steyn into a proven matchwinner, in virtually any position. Sure, he’s not currently good enough to play flyhalf, but maybe three good years of continuity in a related position will turn him into a good pivot – all before his 25th birthday!

Steyn has started 13 tests and of those, the majority have been at inside centre (7). He has started three times at fullback and once each at left wing, flyhalf and outside centre. Is it any wonder the poor lad is confused? To have already operated, whether as a starting option or replacement, at every backline position bar scrumhalf for one of the world’s premier international teams before the age of 21, is frankly phenomenal. My feeling, though, is that it’s equally harmful for him to have done so.

Steyn needs to find a position – this much is clear. He faces exactly the same predicament that Ruan Pienaar is currently negotiating his way through and while Pienaar now seems to be, somewhat reluctantly, embracing his role as a flyhalf, Steyn needs to shut the door on that particular position, at least for the time being, as he works on building continuity in another role.

It has to start with the Sharks and with John Plumtree. The pragmatic New Zealander had just the tonic to get Pienaar back on his feet and he’ll do the same with Steyn. What is crucial is that Steyn needs to use the 2009 Super 14 to rebuild his confidence and stake a proper claim to a regular Bok starting berth. Balancing the player’s own ambitions with the needs of the team will be paramount, but Plumtree’s “team first” ethic will prevail. All that remains to be seen is whether Steyn chooses to embrace it, or to carry on down his own headstrong path. If the latter eventuates, don’t be too surprised to see the youngster part ways with the Durban franchise when his contract expires at the end of next season.

Given Bradley Barritt’s recent departure and Ruan Pienaar’s emergence as a flyhalf of genuine class, Steyn’s Sharks future would appear to be at inside centre. It’s the position in which he has never really looked out of place and his experience there would give him a good base from which to work on the weaker aspects of his game – distribution and option-taking – which become so much clearer at pivot. It’s the safety-first option and with Pienaar inside, Steyn would have ample opportunity to weave his magic. There’s a strong school of thought, though, that Adrian Jacobs is the man who will offer the Sharks most at his favourite position of inside centre. Does Steyn then need to move to outside centre and start all over again in yet another position? What of Waylon Murray, then, another player facing an uncertain future heading into 2009?

The other obvious option is to develop Steyn as a fullback. He has played very little in the last line of defence, since representing South Africa in the number 15 shirt on three occasions in 2006. It is a position that many feel will suit Steyn to a T, allowing him to use his big boot, safe hands, excellent defence and counter-attacking nous to best effect. His ability to (occasionally) land drop-goals from 60 metres out should give the opposition plenty to worry about as well. There are two problems, though. First, Steyn doesn’t want to play fullback and he’s a very headstrong young man. Secondly, fullback is also a position requiring a fair amount of pressure decision-making. This is clearly a weakness of Steyn’s and on that alone, it would be sheer madness to pick him in the last line for the Sharks ahead of the canny Stefan Terblanche.

No, for my money, Steyn needs to turn in 15 good games in the Sharks number 12 shirt next year. He has the inside lane and now needs to repay the faith and show his coach what he can do. Only after he’s successfully ticked that box should we start to get concerned about where (and if) he should pay for the Boks in 2009.


  • Steyn at 15 finished and klaar whether he likes it or not. Look at Ruan at 10 whether he liked it or not he is our best option. Province and country before personal preference.Enough said…The Pokkel has spoken. :wink:

  • Comment 1, posted at 05.12.08 11:36:40 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
    Assistant coach
  • His strenghts currently suits that of a 15. For an immediate future (speaking as if I am Bok coach) if he wants to crack a starting berth for the team this is where he must play.

    If not, he is an able back-up at 12 (for the Boks) under Jean. As well as bringing his utility skills into play if he plays off the bench.

    There are simply better players at the moment (bar 15 imo) in the Bok team, and even in waiting, than Steyn in his preferred position which is 10.

    12 will allow Steyn not to deviate from his ultimate goal to one day make the 10 shirt his own, as the roles of a 10 and 12 are very similar, with less pressure, but then again, he will play understudy to Jean and since he is only 21, I see no problem with this especially since Jean is injury prone.

    Problem with playing off the wood is that you are often forgotten, and your skills level and sharpness drop if you do not get enough game time.

    This was the problem with our super subs in the past.

    And when suddenly called upon in an emergency or injury, they perform below par and everyone comes out with their knives against saying the player is not good enough for that level.

    You will only be good enough if you are afforded good enough time to work in your position.

    So Steyn has a tough choice.

    Do I play 12 with my future plan to go 10 but then be happy as understudy for the Boks (first choice Sharks) and playing off the wood and behind someone?

    Do I go overseas perhaps and develop into a good 10/12 at a club which will give me enough exposure?

    Do I play 15, where I have a real chance and currently, and immediately, a Bok future?

    Skills can be taught and refined. Calmness comes with time and experience so to efficient decision making.

    Steyn can give himself time going overseas.

    For my money, I reckon he should play 15.

    At least give it a season.

    Because one season at 15 for the Sharks in the S14 means you can be the Bok incumbent.

    One season at 12, even if Jean is injured the whole of the Super 14, will not make him the first choice there.

    Most of all, he has everything right now already to make 15 his own.

    Whereas 12 or 10 will take at least a year or 2.

  • Comment 2, posted at 05.12.08 11:39:06 by MorneN Reply
    MornéTeam captain
  • @MorneN (Comment 2) : but one thing he does have is lots of time… assuming he can get his head right.

    Let’s say Steyn plays fullback for the Sharks next year. Who would you see as the inside centre?

  • Comment 3, posted at 05.12.08 11:42:25 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @robdylan (Comment 3) :

    Yes he does have time, what concerns me is him playing off the wood for most of the season once the S14 is done.

    With a Lions tour next year, and the 3N with the usual European tour how much game time will he get, and how will that influence his game?

    12 for the Sharks? You will know better than me!

  • Comment 4, posted at 05.12.08 12:04:04 by MorneN Reply
    MornéTeam captain
  • I would have Steyn at 12 next season and keep Oom Steph at 15.

  • Comment 5, posted at 05.12.08 12:08:35 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive PassCurrie Cup player
  • Three articles on Steyn ??? The boy is a superstar! :smile:

    Steyn must stick at 12 for the Sharks and back-up for the Boks.

    That’s his best position and he shouldn’t switch to 15 just to chase a starting place in the Bok squad. With Conrad proving to be solid – I don’t see him getting the Bok 15 anyway…plus how would that help the Sharks this season- we still have young Stefan…

    A decent Super 14 at 12 for the Sharks will put him back on his mini-throne…and who knows…he might turn out to be better than JdV…in less than 2 years :mrgreen:

  • Comment 6, posted at 05.12.08 12:11:24 by blckshrk - BUCS Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
  • Problem with steyn is that if is a really home rugby player and on that basis he has been rushed into the bok side without ever becoming a specialist player. And he’s missed the boat to a large degree as jantjies, as bok incumbent 15, isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. He’s not gonna lift any of the centres and he just doesn’t have the nous to play flyhalf. Oh, and did i mention he comes across as a bit petulant and impatient? He’s probably the most skilled back we have in the country but also the least specialised. There’s somebody better and more reliable than him in every position and all those players are also more reliable.

  • Comment 7, posted at 05.12.08 12:16:41 by VinChainSaw Reply
    VinChainSawTeam captain
  • @MorneN (Comment 2) :
    Very good precis this.

    My opinion is that he should stick to 12 – sure he wont be first choice for the Boks, but he will have the S14 to prove and improve himself, and as you noted, Jean is injury-prone, and to be fair, I think we will see a fair amount of player breakdowns next year.

    The most important thig is that he needs to be given guidance – not just told that he is a ugby God and set up for failure. He must be made to realise that as talented as he is, there is tone he needs to learn.

    To an extent, I feel that Frans has been failed by the system.

  • Comment 8, posted at 05.12.08 12:18:15 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 7) : predictive text screwed you a little… want me to edit to make it more intelligible? :)

  • Comment 9, posted at 05.12.08 12:18:47 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
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  • @blckshrk – BUCS (Comment 6) :
    @VinChainSaw (Comment 7) :
    Jantjies is the best of a bad lot in my opinion – I hope that Kirchner or somebody else steps up, because Conrad has not shown world-class pedigree.

  • Comment 10, posted at 05.12.08 12:20:43 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 8) : the system is a failure and I feel Dick Muir needs to take a lot of the blame for this one.

    What do you think the Ozmob would have done with Frans?

  • Comment 11, posted at 05.12.08 12:23:21 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @VinChainSaw (Comment 7) : on the way he’s playing now, Frans isn’t good enough to be considerd as a Bok starting option in any position. That’s reality and he needs to accept that… take it on board and do what he needs to to fix it.

  • Comment 12, posted at 05.12.08 12:24:18 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @robdylan (Comment 3) : Thats a sharks issue not a national issue. Boks trump everything.

  • Comment 13, posted at 05.12.08 12:32:18 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
    Worcestershire SauceCurrie Cup player
  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 13) : I don’t agree. Steyn first needs to cement a regular position for his provincial team… excel in that position, then get selected for the Boks. Break that sequence and it all ends in tears.

  • Comment 14, posted at 05.12.08 12:41:38 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • The Sharks do not have a 12…and although Ruan and Adi can old their ground on defense they cannot control the middle of the field…with the right pressure (see S14 semi last year) that channel might be the Sharks defensive weakness…

    Sharks need Steyn at 12….Murray is a below par 13 and should not even be considered ahead of Adi…

    A Kockett/Pienaar/Steyn/Adi combination is a pretty good one….

  • Comment 15, posted at 05.12.08 12:46:19 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • Question –

    Are Saracens playing the Stormers in January?

  • Comment 16, posted at 05.12.08 12:48:37 by PJLD Reply
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
  • @Hmmm (Comment 15) : I’m tempted to agree with you on that… perhaps Frans and Adi can swap on attack sometimes.

    BTW, the defensive liability would be more about Ruan than it would Adi

  • Comment 17, posted at 05.12.08 12:49:06 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • Holy moly they are :!:

    COOL :cool:

  • Comment 18, posted at 05.12.08 12:49:22 by PJLD Reply
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
  • @PJLD (Comment 16) : I think so

  • Comment 19, posted at 05.12.08 12:49:44 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
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  • @robdylan (Comment 11) :
    Oz dont usually rush players in – I think their cricket team management is an absolute model for sporting excellence.

    You dont get in based on talent, reputation or a good season – you get in by all of the above and tons of committment.

    And once you get in, you stay as long as you show the hunger and ability to do so.

    Guys like Hussey (international debut at 30), Andrew Symonds (ODI debut at 23, test at 29) etc are never pushed early – they struggle into the the international team, and hwen they get there, they are polished professionals whose stats show that they are consistent in excelling.

    Most other countries would have handed them debuts at 20, and they would probably not be of the same class.

    Frans seems such an article.

  • Comment 20, posted at 05.12.08 12:50:34 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 20) : but do you think he can even play cricket?

  • Comment 21, posted at 05.12.08 12:55:06 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 20) :

    Not so sure OZ follows the same policy in rugby as they do in cricket, partly by sheer shortage of rugby players.The other night they had an 18 year old at full back ( and what a composed game he had)and he is not the first youngster to be thrown in at the deep end, Gitau was the same age and there have been others.

    I do believe the Aussies have a more professional skills and coaching structure for individual players, something Steyn could benefit from.

  • Comment 22, posted at 05.12.08 12:58:21 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive PassCurrie Cup player
  • @robdylan (Comment 21) :
    You still sorting the finances or have you already launched your own sitcom?

  • Comment 23, posted at 05.12.08 12:59:47 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 23) : yes, but I have already cast all three stooges :)

  • Comment 24, posted at 05.12.08 13:05:34 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 20) :

    You don’t think they rushing O Connor then???

  • Comment 25, posted at 05.12.08 13:05:45 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @wpw (Comment 25) : He seemed to do ok…

  • Comment 26, posted at 05.12.08 13:17:41 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • When is stefan terblanche gonna retire-his a gud playa,but he does miss the odd tackle-any young guns coming through at 15?i like odwa at 15

  • Comment 27, posted at 05.12.08 13:26:32 by Bok-Clyde-Kiwi Reply

    Currie Cup player
  • @Dive Pass (Comment 22) :
    Spot on about the lack of rugby talent – I was talking more about their cricket team.

    @robdylan (Comment 24) :
    How about The Loveable Tramp – can I have a go?

  • Comment 28, posted at 05.12.08 13:30:12 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 23) : @robdylan (Comment 24) :
    He he he…

    But- like I always say- I don’t get the obsession with seeing Frans on the starting lineup for the Boks. At 21 / 22 you should feel lucky to be looked at – let alone making the match 22.

    Steyn has got the talent and the hunger – all he needs now is maturity…(the haircut thing is debatable).

  • Comment 29, posted at 05.12.08 13:30:58 by blckshrk - BUCS Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
  • @blckshrk – BUCS (Comment 29) :

    Well, there was an outcry earlier this season when PDV dropped them from the Bok squad during the TN’s. :roll:

  • Comment 30, posted at 05.12.08 13:34:42 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @robdylan (Comment 17) :

    Yeh…but as a channel (as neither are very strong) they will not be very good…

  • Comment 31, posted at 05.12.08 13:37:19 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @Hmmm (Comment 31) :

    Well lets put it this way….Matt G is better on defense than both and his channel was breached on occasion in the 3N by the SA players when the game got a bit loose….

  • Comment 32, posted at 05.12.08 13:38:28 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @wpw (Comment 30) : Outcry ??? Really???

  • Comment 33, posted at 05.12.08 13:40:18 by blckshrk - BUCS Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
  • @blckshrk – BUCS (Comment 33) :

    Yep. Does Gavin Rich ring a bell??? :roll:

  • Comment 34, posted at 05.12.08 13:43:48 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach
  • @wpw (Comment 34) : Whatever…

    I still think the 25 year old Steyn will win the IRB Player of The Year.

  • Comment 35, posted at 05.12.08 13:49:46 by blckshrk - BUCS Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!Super Rugby player
  • @blckshrk – BUCS (Comment 35) :

    Steyn will be IRB player of the year at 12….

    But while Jean (although he had a very poor game for the Barbs) is filling that place very well)….

  • Comment 36, posted at 05.12.08 13:53:00 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @Big Fish (Comment 28) : the lovable tramp wouldn’t be able to fit you into her schedule :) She’s *very* lovable, you see…

  • Comment 37, posted at 05.12.08 13:55:01 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • I think Steyn at 12 should be the only option… anywhere else and he must be prepared to warm the bench. In fact, spending some time on the bench might also help bring him back to earth and help him realise where he really fits in w.r.t the pecking order of senior-class rugby. (ie. to get the “wunderkid” sh#t out of his head). No individual is ever better than the team… surely a baabaas “team” of world class indivuals proved that.

    Also, 12 is arguably the only position he has really consistently proven himself at. Didn’t Carter start at 12? (Shouldn’t that be motivation enough for a young up-and-coming star like Steyn to try and emulate!)

    If I was Plumtree looking at my resources, it would be a sin to leave any of Kockott, Pienaar, Steyn, Jacobs or Terblanche on the bench… so there’s really only one permutation that gets them all on the park at the same time.

    I think Plumtree’s talk of Pienaar spending some time at 9 and Steyn at 10 has more to do with the plans of player rotation and developing back-up in case there’s a major injury towards the play-off stages.

    Well, that’s what I think anyway :grin:

  • Comment 38, posted at 05.12.08 14:03:55 by CS Reply

    CSCurrie Cup player
  • @CS (Comment 38) :

    Carter started at 15…then 12…then 10….

  • Comment 39, posted at 05.12.08 14:45:26 by Hmmm Reply

    HmmmSuper Rugby player
  • @CS (Comment 38) : for what it’s worth, I think it makes sense.

  • Comment 40, posted at 05.12.08 15:38:08 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
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  • check out the new poll

  • Comment 41, posted at 05.12.08 16:15:35 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • Reserve :lol:

  • Comment 42, posted at 05.12.08 17:00:23 by PJLD Reply
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
  • @PJLD (Comment 42) :

    I was tempted. :wink:

  • Comment 43, posted at 05.12.08 17:12:54 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 43) : Me too :-)

  • Comment 44, posted at 05.12.08 17:15:42 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • I think Steyn would benefit froma season of 7′s, teach him to pass abit and make better use of his breaks.

    Won’t help him specialising but will improve some of his game and maybe give him some time to think about it.

  • Comment 45, posted at 05.12.08 17:58:16 by beez Reply

    beezUnder 21 player
  • @beez (Comment 45) :

    Wouldn’t that just be an awesome sight? Steyn at Sevens would do well IMO and as you said it will help his passing (team play) and it should give him a better insight into getting isolated.

  • Comment 46, posted at 05.12.08 18:20:31 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©Head Coach
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 46) : Yeah I think with his power and step he would do well, but you are right he would isolate himself and have to learn.

  • Comment 47, posted at 05.12.08 19:05:14 by beez Reply

    beezUnder 21 player
  • I rekon 15 is his place, his ability to bang over drops from 60m out and get 70m’s on a touch kicks makes him worthy of a spot in any team.

  • Comment 48, posted at 08.12.08 12:43:30 by billy Reply

    billyVodacom Cup player
  • @billy (Comment 48) : except that 65%+ of his kicks don’t go where he intends them to…

  • Comment 49, posted at 08.12.08 13:02:16 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • Haven’t watched much rugby since the S14(!), but I still maintain that he should play 12 and gradually move to 10.

    Since I’m so out of touch, my opinion probably doesn’t count anyway! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 50, posted at 08.12.08 14:32:01 by Ghost10 Reply

    Under 21 player
  • @Ghost10 (Comment 50) : dude – your opinion will always count! We are all nothing but ignorant amateurs compared to you :)

    Welcome back…

  • Comment 51, posted at 08.12.08 14:41:11 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • @Ghost10 (Comment 50) : Of course your opinion counts my fellow Liverpool supporter :twisted:

  • Comment 52, posted at 08.12.08 14:43:35 by wpw Reply
    wpwAssistant coach

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