Jean de Villiers is happy that Frans Steyn has at last been able to settle on a position at the Sharks, but the man who borrowed his No 12 jersey during the last World Cup may just understand on Saturday why it was a temporary measure.
“I think it’s brilliant that the Sharks have settled on a position for Frans. It’s good for his career. We’re competing against one another on Saturday, but are also friends off the field,” said De Villiers.
“Last year I was South Africa’s inside centre, but it’s 2009 now and I still have to fight for my place. It’s going to be a tough match-up between all four centres and the backlines.
“There are places up for grabs with British and Irish Lions coming to tour. It will be a tough match.
“Frans is a special player. His combination with Ruan Pienaar (flyhalf) will be very important for the Sharks.
“I know them both well. It’s going to be fun, but there will definitely be no love lost on Valentine’s Day!”
Steyn made a huge name for himself in the 2007 World Cup after De Villiers suffered a serious injury in South Africa’s opening game against Samoa.
However, his game suffered last year when he was constantly moved around by the Sharks’ previous coach and current Springbok assistant, Dick Muir.
The result of that was that Steyn never came into his own at test level. John Plumtree, who took over from Muir as Sharks coach, has already stated in the pre-season that he will hand Pienaar and Steyn the No 10 and No 12 jerseys respectively.
Saturday’s match will therefore be an important first step in a new chapter in Steyn’s career.
It’s also an opportunity for De Villiers to show who is boss on South Africa’s inside centre rankings list.
“The Sharks are a good all-round side. They can be physical, but also flashy. They have special players that can change the game in the blink of an eye. Our defence will definitely be tested this weekend,” said De Villiers.
There certainly is no doubt about that, but it will cut both ways.
Steyn’s physical presence and boot can be a big weapon for the Sharks, but there were good reasons why De Villiers was named South Africa’s rugby player of the year in 2008.
After the misfortune he suffered at the World Cup, De Villiers will be highly motivated to continue playing some of his best rugby in the year the Lions tour South Africa.
Stephen Nell – Die BurgerTweet