Francois Steyn has become accustomed to being moved around the backline and like any true professional will always play where “the coach and team” needs him.
But it is not surprising that the multi-talented 21-year-old sometimes struggle to find his feet, because unlike most players he never settles down in a specific spot in the team, writes Jan De Koning for www.rugby365.com.
Take his international career for example. He has played in every position in the backline, except scrumhalf. Having made his debut against Ireland on the wing, he then played two Tests at fullback, a few off the bench, another at fullback, off the bench again, then he had a decent run at inside centre (during the 2007 World Cup when Jean de Villiers was injured), then played at flyhalf and outside centre last year, followed by more games off the bench.
It hasn’t been much different at the Sharks, till this year at least – when he was given a more regular start in the No.12 jersey, with fellow World Cup winner Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf.
Then, a month ago, Pienaar was injured and suddenly Steyn was thrust back into the pivotal role.
Not that he is complaining.
But he did give rugby365.com an insight into why players who often shifts around struggle to play consistently good rugby.
“It definitely takes time to adjust,” Steyn said, when asked about his latest change in position.
“They do say that the two positions [centre and flyhalf] are very similar, but it is not entirely true.
“At centre you make a lot more contact – taking the ball up, making tackles and hitting rucks … all those things.
“At flyhalf you have to stand back a bit and assess the situation, make key decisions.
“At centre you don’t have to make as many decisions as at flyhalf,” Steyn said.
He said that while he did struggle at first, he feels that he is now beginning to make good progress in the No.10 jersey again.
“Remember it is only my third game back at flyhalf after a long time,” Steyn told rugby365.com, adding that it also depends on the quality of the ball you get.
“Against the Hurricanes [last Saturday] they piled the pressure on in the first half, but after the break it went a lot better with the team in general,” he said of a game in which the Hurricanes held a 10-9 lead at the break, before the Sharks cut loose to win 33-17.
“We struggled in the set pieces [against the Hurricanes] in the first half, but after the break we raised the bar and managed to get our game going.”
He also pointed out that during that first half the Sharks only saw about 40 percent of the ball.
“I really couldn’t do much, because we saw so little of the ball.
“But we are winning [the games] and it is getting better all the time at flyhalf,” he added.
Having achieved cult-like status for his exploits as a 20-year-old at the 2007 World Cup, Steyn brings physicality to the Sharks backline and still has one of the biggest boots in the game.
While his strike rate is not what purists find acceptable, Steyn often succeeds with drop-goals or penalties from inside his own half.
This product of the Sharks Academy brings with him youthful exuberance, an educated boot and an array of remarkable skills.
And, despite being just 21, has a World Cup winner’s medal, 64 games for the Sharks (35 of those in Super Rugby) and 27 Test caps.Tweet