Springbok star Francois Steyn, the youngest ever World Cup winner at aged 19 in 2007, is hoping to star in the next edition of Rugby Union’s showcase tournament despite playing in France.
Rugby 365 reports that Steyn has signed a three-year contract with newly-promoted Racing-Metro, the second Parisian side in the French first division, the Top 14, alongside Stade Francais.
The Sharks back, who says his preferred position is centre or flyhalf, admitted that playing in France had been something that formulated itself during the last World Cup, hosted by France.
“After the 2007 World Cup, I always told myself that I’d come to play in France,” he told L’Equipe newspaper.
“I remember walking around Paris looking at the magnificent streets packed with history, drinking coffee and eating ‘chocolat and banana crepes’ – maybe too much.”
He added: “South Africa has a policy that foreign-based players can play for the national side. I haven’t given up on representing my country at the next World Cup.
“I hope that the Springboks will be the first in history to retain the crown.”
Steyn, who is in the Springbok squad to play three Tests against the British and Irish Lions over the coming weeks, said he was looking forward to playing in a championship that did not mean as much travel.
“The Top 14 and Super 14 are a relatively similar level. The Super 14 only lasts 14 weeks but there are long trips combined with pressure and the demands of the competition.
“I hope my stay in France will teach me to adopt a new approach to matches and make me stronger mentally.
“But it will be a huge challenge to learn a new language, to live far from my family, to live through the European winter.”
With Steyn due to arrive in Paris after the Lions Tests before decamping again to South Africa for the Tri-Nations tournament, it was telling that he named Ireland and Lions centre Brian O’Driscoll, a potential opponent in the weeks to come, as his favourite player.
“When he landed on the international scene it was quickly apparent that he was a player capable of doing some incredible things,” Steyn said.
“And although he is marked by his opponents, he has remained a dangerous player for a number of years.”
When asked whether he agreed with many in France who had named Steyn as the best player in the world, the South African added: “I think you’ve got me mixed up with Brian O’Driscoll.
“I’ve still got many things to learn. For the moment my sole ambition is to become the best player possible. I hope to be able to do that in a Racing shirt.”Tweet