Jhb, Gau South Africa (PressExposure) July 05, 2007 -- Many minds across South Africa will be made up about a certain Francois Steyn, that he is too unpredictable and this is as a lack of experience. Some might say he should be given a chance though. He has 2 glaring sides to his game: the boy-wonder of a week ago where he came on and scored two marvellous drop-kick goals to win the match against Australia - and then the side to his game he still needs to get rid of, which returned to haunt him against New Zealand, he seemed to just let a ball slip through his open hands when it was passed to him. Just as he made that mistake that cost the Natal Sharks the Super 14 final by not kicking the ball out right at the death of the game, he made an unforced error which put his team under heavy pressure and in the end they too lost a key match in this competition.
The net result of his error against New Zealand was not only a New Zealand scrum, the All Blacks used the opportunity to enforce their pick-and-drive and eventually Pedrie Wannenburg was adjudged to have committed a professional foul and received ten minutes in the "sin-bin" by way of a yellow card. The strange part of this debacle was the fact that coach Jake White had sent both Pedrie Wannenburg and Francois Steyn on to the field to replace Bob Skinstad and Butch James just a couple minutes earlier. This knock-on and resulting loss of Wannenburg for ten minutes cost the Springboks the momentum they had managed to work up at that point in the match (the ball had been stolen in an All Blacks line out just before Frans Steyn had decided to knock the ball on) and also forced the Springboks to be down a forward for ten minutes.
And here is another glaring mistake made by the youngster: In the dying moments of the match South Africa were trying to keep the ball alive and run it out from their own goal-line to try and setup the possibility of an attacking move to at least level the match with a try. Ruaan Pienaar dug the ball out from the ruck and passed the ball out to Francois Steyn. To explain the importance of this error I need to explain one thing. Francois Steyn had been sent on to replace Butch James at the fly half position, also known as the first receiver position - reason being that from rucks and mauls you are... first receiver. As Ruaan Pienaar (who had a wonderful game of rugby on Saturday, BTW) passed the ball out to young Steyn, Francois Steyn was running horizontally across his own goal line and not watching his scrum half. He thus did not take the ball cleanly and ended up instead carrying it across his own goal line and had to dot it down under pressure from the on-rushing All Blacks resulting in a five-metre scrum to the New Zealanders, with South Africa's hopes of a last gasp attacking move dying out as well as the game.
This, however, was not the only match-costing point of the game. More than one person in the Springbok camp has admitted that fatigue might have plagued a few of the players, especially once the All Blacks started to step up the tempo late in the second half with quick throw-ins to their line-outs and expansive running. It seemed the Boks just couldn't handle the pace.
The rest of the match was a classical encounter between the All Blacks and the Springboks, a real physical encounter. This was started off by some fierce tackling in the opening minutes of the match, proper bone-crunching stuff with the Sprinbok defence driving the All Blacks' players backwards at almost every tackle. A typically physical approach from the Springboks which seemed to be working. One thing that really wasn't working for the South African team was their scrums, a sore point which Jake White needs to sort out in a hurry. And yes, the South African team could have beaten the New Zealanders, but the New Zealanders came back and used their pace and fitness to end the match in their favour. This all with the Springboks missing key players due to injury, including star winger-match-winner Bryan Habana and captain John Smit.
The scorers for South Africa were:
Schalk Burger, try on 39 minutes Butch James, try on 44 minutes One conversion and two penalties to Percy Montgomery One penalty to Ruaan Pienaar (from just over 50 metres)
The scorers for New Zealand were: Richie McCaw, try on 67 minutes Joe Rokocoko, try on 70 minutes Three penalties and two conversions to Dan Carter (who did not have a great match by his standards) One drop kick by Aaron Mauger