He might be in the training colours of the Sharks, but Francois Steyn yesterday was deemed “ready to go” by Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White after the Log leaders regrouped at Kings Park ahead of the next week’s Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

A fortnight ago, Steyn took a hugely controversial and unilateral decision to remove himself from the Springbok Squad on the Tuesday before the Boks were due to play Wales in Durban.

And while weeks of newspaper headlines have speculated over contractual issues and a chronic knee problem, it was always intimated that his knee injury would benefit from the break of the Wales series, plus this week’s Bok game against Scotland, and the refreshed 27-year-old is now focused on guiding the Sharks home to Super Rugby glory, while his Bok teammate have their eyes on the Scots.

Steyn’s eye is on the Sharks, not on the Boks and this surely is the first documentd case of a South African rugby player turning his back on the green and gold and nailing his colours to a provincial mast.

In August, Steyn in any case takes up a career in Japan, lest we lose any more tears over his chronic fatiuge.

The Sharks have two pool matches to go, and if they win them, they will not only win the SA Conference (which they are certain to do anyway given that the second-placed Bulls cannot catch them), but then by finishing top of the log they can book a home final, should they win their home semi-final.

“Frans has had two weeks off to chill out a bit,” White said. “Looking at the stats, he’s played the second-most amount of rugby for us this year – behind Lwazi Mvovo – and I needed him to have some time off, which he has had and he joined us along with the squad when they all assembled here this morning. He’s all ready to go.”

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer will be moved to tears when he hears this …! Make that of it as you will

White said that another Springbok flyhalf, Patrick Lambie, is on course to make his comeback when Super Rugby resumes for the South African teams in the week after the Scotland Test in Port Elizabeth.

“Pat is also training with us and has a few things to get right medically,” White said. “There will be a few tests undertaken regarding what he can and can’t do with that bicep, and once he can tick all those boxes then he’ll be ready to go. It all looks positive though, it looks like he’s on track for 10 days’ time.

The Sharks have just got back from a two-week vacation and White said that from a Super Rugby franchise point of view, this was the whole point of the June International break.

But the reality is that the Sharks’ contingent of Bok players had to play through this window, and Steyn obviously did not want to be among that number.

“One of the decisions we made as a coaching staff is that we weren’t going to push the players too hard during the June break,” White said. “They had an eight-match block of matches with a tour towards the end of that block. Now the Boks are away, so to keep bashing the same guys over and over doesn’t make sense,” White said.

And Steyn, demonstratively, did not want any of that “bashing” for that precous knee .

“It’s been a good refresher for us and although we’re not in an ideal position with our Boks away, it at least it gives us time now to start getting our game plans and game strategies right for the next couple of weeks,” White said.

“There are some decisions to make,” he said. “One is whether we go hammer and tongs and play the guys who have carried a heavy work load (like the Bok front row) but that comes with a risk, because if you don’t qualify for a home semi-final, then you end up having over-played some players going into the final stages of the competition.

“If you don’t play your strongest team you create a perception, and I want to stress that it is a perception, that your weaker team is not good enough to win, which is not fair on the players,” White said. “So the challenge for us is to get the balance right between giving ourselves a fair crack at getting a home semi, but at the same time, making sure that if don’t get a home semi, our players are all fit and available for the play-offs.”

As things stand, the Sharks are the only team sure of a home semi final because they cannot lose the SA Conference.

“Our next game is very important, that’s logical, but also because what could happen this weekend when we’re not playing,” White said of this week’s round of Super Rugby matches between the Kiwi and Aussie teams that take place while the Boks are still tied to hosting Scotland, a game that falls just out the international window.

“There are so many permutations – the Crusaders are playing the Hurricanes who are there and thereabouts, the Brumbies are playing the Waratahs, so there is enough there for us to see who is hitting their straps, who is doing what, who gets points, how many can they get… ,” White said. “And that allows us an opportunity to see what we’re going to have do.

“People speak about the break and the momentum that is lost , but we see the positives. The nice thing about where we are is that we’ve won the conference, we are going to play play-off rugby,’ White said “The worst case scenario is that we’re going to have to win three games – one at home and two away – to win the competition. But from a positive point of view, we’ve been the best South African touring side, so we’re not worried about having to win away from home. We have to make sure we’re on song for the play-offs, whether it’s a quarter-final first or straight to the semi-finals.

By Mike Greenaway

About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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