Kicking ability the key to Steyn’s selection

SOUTH AFRICA coach Peter de Villiers says Frans Steyn’s kicking ability was the decisive factor in his selection for the Tri Nations encounter against Australia on Saturday.

The Racing Metro full-back was yesterday named ahead of Gio Aplon in the number 15 jersey, while centre Jaque Fourie was also included in one of two changes to the Springbok side following their 29-22 loss to New Zealand last week. It means a first Test appearance for Steyn since his start against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in early June.

He has since been on the sidelines, first with an injury and then a misunderstanding with his French club, which has led to all sorts of speculation in recent weeks, including De Villiers questioning his commitment for his country.

Steyn, whose kicking ability is among the best in the world, was scheduled to play in last week’s 29-22 defeat to New Zealand, but a breakdown in communication prevented the 23-year-old from playing.

But De Villiers has welcomed the 37-capped World Cup winner back, saying: “Frans is an outstanding player, a natural athlete. He’s used to playing alongside many of these players and I have no doubt that he’ll slot straight in. We don’t have another kicker on and we all know Francois’s ability. So that made the decision a lot easier for us, especially when you have to put some fresh legs on, you know you have a full-back with the kicking skills on your team to continue with the standard that we set.”

There are no changes among the forwards, but number eight Ryan Kankowski does come in on the bench in place of Francois Louw. Fourie, who has spent the last four weeks on the sidelines after being cited during the last meeting against the Wallabies a month ago, replaces Juan de Jongh, who drops to the bench.

Aplon is dropped from the match 22 altogether, along with Francois Louw and Wynand Olivier.

De Villiers insists the world champions have now “moved on” from the last-minute loss to the All Blacks and is expecting the Australians to present a different sort of challenge as the two sides now vie for second place on the log.

He said: “It was painful but we have to lift ourselves up again.

“When I looked at the video I realised how proud these players are and how they stood up for me and the team. I feel good about that.”

And on Robbie Deans’ side, he added: “The Wallabies approach the game with a different mind-set. They do not have the same physical presence as the All Blacks and unlike the All Blacks they will not try to take the ball wide whenever they get the chance.

“They will rely on a player like Quade Cooper to use the inside ball to bring big runners like Rocky Elsom into the game. We also cannot ignore the impact of David Pocock at the breakdown. He will definitely be a factor. We will continue to focus on what we must do and how we want to play. We let ourselves down last weekend but if we can stay within our structures and limit the mistakes and lapses we will be successful.”

Veteran lock Victor Matfield will follow captain John Smit by reaching his 100th cap for his country. The skipper achieved the feat in Johannesburg last week and his deputy will be crossing the mark in front of his home crowd at Loftus Versfeld.

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