‘Special star’ Steyn on the wing

The need to find a place for a very special player has resulted in Sharks coach Dick Muir naming Francois Steyn, the find of 2006, on the wing for their encounter with the Bulls in Durban on Saturday.

In naming his starting XV for this Super 14 Round One encounter in Durban on Saturday, Muir opted for veteran Butch James at fly-half and fellow stalwart Percy Montgomery at fullback.

However, the teenage sensation, Steyn, is such a special player that Muir decided he simply could not be left out of the team.

Steyn, who made his Springbok debut as a wing against Ireland in November last year and was then shifted to fullback for the two-match series against England, will wear the No.14 jersey against the Bulls – a game in which he will make his Super 14 debut for the Sharks.

Although the young Sharks star shone in both positions, wing and fullback, it is thought that fly-half – where he mostly played for the Sharks during an impressive Currie Cup season last year – was his best position.

And Muir acknowledged as much when he explained the selection of the you player.

“We opted for Butch [James] at fly-half ahead of him and Percy [Montgomery] at fullback,” Muir told this website, adding that the experience of James and Montgomery played a big role in deciding the final line-up for this all-South African derby.

But Steyn deserved a place anyway.

“He’s such a special player that we needed to find a place for him and we brought him in on the wing,” Muir added.

While Steyn will wing it for the Sharks this week, he is certain to move back into more familiar territory in the weeks ahead.

“I wouldn’t imagine he would play there [wing] very often, he is pretty wasted on the wing” Muir said in reference to future selections.

While the selection of Steyn will hog the headlines, Muir’s team includes a couple of other players who will also be making their Super 14 debuts.

No.8 Ryan Kankowski, one of the most impressive players during the 2006 Currie Cup, will also play his first Super 14 game, while lock Steven Sykes is another debutant.

Prop Kees Lensing, who provides front row cover on the bench, will play his first Super 14 game for the Sharks if he comes on. He played Super 12 rugby for the Bulls in 2005, before he headed to England to play for Leeds in the Premiership.

Rory Kockott, who is providing scrum-half cover on the bench, will also make his debut if he gets game time.

Veteran Bok lock Albert van den Berg has overcome the injury concerns from earlier in the week and will slot in on the bench. Fellow stalwart Johan Ackermann has not recovered from his pre-season injury.

Muir said that this early in the season his team is not as ready as they would like to be for such a physical and brutal encounter against the Bulls.

“We’re not 100 percent yet, but we’re as good as we can be,” he added.

Sharks: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Francois Steyn, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Kees Lensing, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Cedric Mkhize

Date: Saturday, 3 February
Venue: ABSA Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

By Jan de Koning

365 Digital

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