Francois Steyn has confirmed, he will be leaving South Africa, to play his rugby for French club Racing Metro at the end of the British and Irish Lions series.
The announcement has been brewing for some months now, but just how big a loss is it for South African rugby?
I would suggest that the loss of Steyn is not that large. I think he is a highly overrated player, and his departure opens the way for the next youngster to step up. however it does concern me that someone so young has left South Africa to chase the dollars they can earn overseas. It sets a dangerous precedent for young players.
Steyn has a Currie Cup title and a Rugby World Cup winners medal and is still only 22. Many have argued he doesn’t have a lot left to achieve in the game. However if that were the case then people like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods should just retire.
He has yet to win a Super rugby title and moving to France must surely be a detrimental move for his rugby. But one feels he wants to get away from the pressure and limelight he experiences in South Africa.
Many will be mourning the loss of Steyn but I don’t think it’s such a great loss. Sure he has has produced some great things on the rugby field, generally in the Springbok jersey, but those are far and few between. He singlehandedly changed the game against Australia at Newlands in 2007 with his 2 superb long range drop goals.
He stepped in and covered more than adequately in Rugby World Cup 2007. His performances there were more solid than spectacular and his long range penalty in the final certainly helped the Boks out, but it wasn’t a match defining piece of play. The solo try against Italy whilst playing flyhalf was also one of the great individual tries i’ve ever seen.
These moments of brilliance have simply been too far and few between to warrant me viewing Steyn as an automatic choice in any team. His performances are often erratic, mixing the woeful with the sublime.
He is too slow in his decision making and handling to be a flyhalf and his best position is inside centre or fullback.
Many forget that he missed the vital conversion that would have won the Super 14 in 2007 for the Sharks, and then he failed to put the ball out to allow the Bulls to construct the match winning try. Whilst there were other factors that caused the Sharks to lose that day, Steyn must shoulder the responsible for not closing out the game.
At the moment South Africa is blessed with some great players who have the fullback position covered, and at inside centre we have De Villiers and Olivier. Steyn would not be in my Springbok 22 and thus from a national perspective I don’t see his absence as being a big deal. The Sharks may miss his presence, but in my opinion he offered little more than most non-international players in the Super 14 this year.
Steyn has said he would like to remain playing for the Springboks and wants to go to Rugby World Cup 2011. If I was coach or selector I wouldn’t pick him as an overseas player because I think we should only select players from overseas if they are world class superstars that we really can’t do without. Players such as Pierre Spies, Bryan Habana, Percy Montgomery.
So it’s au revoir to Francois, I just hope the French with all their style can finally manage to get Francois a decent haircut!
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