When the All Blacks played the Springboks at Kings Park in Durban in 2009, a young Morne Steyn finished with a monstrous personal tally of 31 points, the highest ever individual haul against New Zealand as the Springboks romped home to a 31-19 win.
Seven years later in 2016, the same two teams met again at the same venue for the first time since Steyn’s record-setting day.
Morne Steyn had been recalled into the Springboks squad under Allister Coetzee after indifferent results with Super Rugby star Elton Jantjies.
He kicked all 18 points to lead the Springboks to an 18-10 win over the Wallabies in Perth, nailing two drop goals and four penalties during the 2016 Rugby Championship.
Many Springbok fans had visions his 2009 performance would be repeated in Durban after his expert showing in Perth. After 40-minutes in Durban, Steyn had kicked three penalties to trail the All Blacks 12-9 at halftime.
After just three minutes in the second half, the All Blacks were building intense pressure on the Springboks defence, rolling through 16 phases. Steyn became entangled with Joe Moody off the ball after taking out the halfback TJ Perenara, losing his cool and clubbing Moody in the stomach during the tangle.
Two phases later he dived into a ruck with a swinging arm, before having to get up and defend again. He missed a crucial tackle on Israel Dagg with a tired effort, as Dagg slipped through after a miraculous Barrett offload to put the All Blacks up 17-9.
Steyn then kicked the halfway restart into the All Blacks in-goal, giving the visitors a scrum on the 50-metre line.
It was the beginning of the end for Steyn as the All Black machine would put up 45 second-half points on the back of a sublime performance from World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett.
A charge down by Anton Lienert-Brown gave Barrett his first try, extending the lead to 22-12. Barrett missed another conversion, having only landed 1 from 5 at this point, but it would not matter.
Steyn kicked well off the tee, landing his fifth penalty near the 60-minute mark, but his old school style of hammering long kicks down the field cost the Springboks as the All Blacks returned with contestable bombs from Barrett and Ben Smith that were regathered, setting up attacking possessions. He would be subbed in the 63-minute with the game lost.
A Barrett line break assist set up a break by Kieran Read that was finished by TJ Perenara. A crafty offload by Liam Squire quickly after a turnover saw Barrett scamper away for his second try. Codie Taylor would bank a mauling try after Lood De Jager copped a yellow card. Ben Smith finished a break with Barrett providing the last pass, his second try assist. A mid-range chip kick by Barrett off his left foot would lead to the final try to Liam Squire.
The reaction on Twitter was mixed as South African slumped to their worst ever defeat to the All Blacks by 57-15.
So morne steyn rectified elton jantjies deficiencies for #boks No tries, Record defeat, Statistical nightmare
— aubrey nyaguse (@mnaubrey) October 8, 2016
Where are all those Morné Steyn fans from last week? And the sports journos defending Coetzee & Steyn lst week?
Worst coach since Streauli
— David (@Dewald_duPlooy) October 8, 2016
Under the spotlight was the defensive performance of the backs, with Morne Steyn singled out by this user who asked “can the rugby experts confirm how many missed tackles Morne Steyn had in yesterday’s All Blacks game ??”
Kan die rugbykenners bevestig hoeveel missed tackles Morne Steyn gehad het in gister se All Blacks game??
— ? Johannes Dampies ? (@DampiesJ) October 9, 2016
Springbok backline – 21 Missed tackles out of 33. Steyn 5, Faf 4, Habana, Hougie 3 ea. The root of the problem.
— Brenden Nel (@BrendenNel) October 8, 2016
Morné Steyn made 7tackles and missed 5 yesterday. Juan de Jongh missed 4. Nice.#RugbyChampionship
— David (@Dewald_duPlooy) October 9, 2016
The Morné Steyn, Adriaan Strauss bandwagon is confused. Everybody that got on last Sunday has suddenly disembarked again…
— IG: johngoliath (@JohnGoliath82) October 9, 2016
Not even Suzie the waitress could help this Springboks team. #RSAvNZL
— RK (@d_kingmaker_b) October 8, 2016
Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett explained to SuperSport among the many issues with loss was the style of play.
“The philosophy of trying to play rugby without the ball is not only a negative one, but it just doesn’t work against a side which has such attacking genius as the All Blacks do at the moment,” he said.
“Kicking the ball away in desperation and then not finding touch against people like Waisake Naholo and Israel Dagg will cost you.
“Our defence is frenetic. We tackle and tackle and then get tired. And as soon as the intensity drops against the All Blacks, they score tries.”
Rob Houwing of Sport 24 described the test as the “starkest confirmation yet during this grim year that the Boks are all at sea strategically, a rot that has inevitably infected individual performance levels, even of players with prior, proud reputations.”
Just one member of the Springbok backline received a rating of 5/10 by Houwing with the rest under that mark.
The Durban test would prove to be Morne Steyn’s last outing in a Springbok jersey, with the goal kicking ace never playing again for South Africa.
The three-time Super Rugby champion would finish his 66-test career with 736 test points, second only behind Percy Montgomery, with a world-class goal kicking success rate above 80%.
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