JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Emergency South Africa fly-half Francois Steyn has been called “incredible” by former head coach Rassie Erasmus ahead of a crucial Rugby Championship clash with Argentina today.
With Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse unavailable, the 35-year-old utility back will make his first Springbok start as a playmaker since 2008 in the final round match.
First-choice Pollard is injured, Jantjies was dropped from the squad after reports of an alleged affair with the team dietician and Willemse is recovering from concussion.
That left Steyn as the only option for the clash with the Pumas at Kings Park in Durban and reserve scrum-half Faf de Klerk will also provide fly-half cover.
South African director of rugby Erasmus, the coaching mastermind behind South Africa winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, lavished praise on Steyn, who has won 77 caps.
“It is incredible how Francois, at the age of 35, is still performing so well at international level. South Africans can be very proud of him,” he said.
Erasmus used six forwards and two backs on the bench rather than the traditional five-three split at the World Cup, enabling South Africa to unleash six fresh forwards in the second half.
Apart from a specialist scrum-half, Steyn was the only other back chosen for all the key matches in Japan, covering the full-back, centre and fly-half positions.
He replaced Willemse late in a 36-20 bonus-point victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires last Saturday and head coach Jacques Nienaber hailed his “calmness”.
A prodigious long-range goal kicker, Steyn slotted two conversions, one from the touchline, to put the match beyond the reach of the Pumas.
In the tightest title race since the southern hemisphere championship was launched 10 years ago, New Zealand and South Africa have 14 points each, Australia 10 and Argentina nine.