‘Lion tamer’ Morné Steyn: This kick was a bit better for the old legs
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CAPE TOWN - There is a meme going around of Morné Steyn’s Wikipedia page stating that he is a “professional lion tamer”.
It goes on to say that Steyn “specialises in waiting until the last minute to break lion hearts. He’ll only be 49 for the next series”.
The praise he has received over the last 12 hours or so, since turning back the clock 12 years to kick the winning penalty in Saturday’s final Test against the British and Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium, has followed a remarkable turnaround for the Bulls flyhalf, who about five years ago was not the favoured cup of tea amongst Bok supporters.
His previous Test was that disastrous 57-15 defeat to the All Blacks at Kings Park in Durban in 2016, where despite kicking five penalties to score all the points on the day to make it 22-15 with 20 minutes to go, he thought that his Bok career was over after 66 Tests as a last-quarter blitz from the Kiwis resulted in five tries.
But a return to Pretoria and the Bulls after six years at Stade Francais in Paris has reignited his career. He has been outstanding for his franchise, to the extent that he was able to force his way into what was essentially the Springbok World Cup-winning squad for the Lions series.
He missed out on the first two Tests, but coach Jacques Nienaber said that there was an hour-long selection debate on choosing between Steyn and Elton Jantjies as the reserve pivot.
And while Nienaber said he couldn’t watch it, Steyn repaid the faith shown in him with slotting two late penalties – the second of which clinched the series 2-1 – just like he did in 2009 at Loftus Versfeld.
“Just to be part of this whole thing 12 years later is an amazing feeling. And ja, to get that final kick again – almost the same position, just a bit closer for the old legs! But ja, luckily it went over, and I think it’s a great day for South African rugby,” Steyn said in a post-match press conference.
“It’s a bit long to remember what exactly happened in 2009, but it was almost exactly the same situation. We were also tied up, and had the final kick to win the game.
“That one was 54 metres, and this one today was about 35 metres. It was a bit better for the old legs, but I think for a kicker, it’s about special occasions like that.
“You put all the hard work in during the week and during your whole career for kicks like that – you always dream of that one kick to win a series, game or a championship.
“So, luckily it paid off today, and all the hard work… and all the glory to God. He just gave me the… He saved me through my career from injuries, and He gave me another opportunity to do this.
“It was a whole build-up throughout the game, and the whole team didn’t have the best performance today. But it doesn’t matter how you win – as long as you can pull that win through.
“Everything is now attributed to my last kick, but the whole team made them soft throughout the whole tournament, and in the end, we could play in the final and could get the last kick over.”
The Boks now move on to Gqeberha for the start of the Rugby Championship against Argentina on Saturday, and at age 37 and with 67 Test caps and 742 points behind his name, there is little left for Steyn to prove in a glittering career that includes a number of international and provincial titles.
But he is willing to keep going, as needed by his country. “I came back after six years in France, and I didn’t expect to play for the Springboks again – I thought it was over. It all went well at the Bulls in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby and all the competitions we played there, and I had the opportunity to play again (for the Boks),” Steyn said.
“At this moment, I am just taking it year by year, as life goes on. As long as I can play for the Springboks, I will play for the Springboks. I think I will never say no to the Springboks…
“As long as they want to pick me, we will be available. Just enjoying the moment now, and just enjoy every day.”