Frans Steyn is apparently out of the World Cup. Steyn’s return to the No12 jersey during this World Cup was a revelation. It’d be obviously incorrect to say that the centre partnership of de Villiers and Fourie lacks physicality, but the strength that Steyn brings to the role, the amount of go-forward ball he generated and the unorthodoxy of his ridiculous gamut of skills gave the Springbok midfield something the Mole didn’t even realise it was lacking.
Steyn has all the attributes to challenge for the title of best player in the world, and bringing him close to the centre of the action and getting the ball in his hands a lot was a smart move from Crazy Piet. You could argue that he was the obvious choice to replace the injured Jean de Villiers, having performed exactly that role in the last World Cup, but it was still a good call.
The Mole had speculated that he played too selfishly to be part of a truly coherent centre partnership, but if anything he looked even more effective at first centre than he did from fullback. However, his World Cup looks to be over just at the point where he could launch his bid to be the star of the tournament. Here’s Crazy Piet:
“Frans Steyn is likely to go home. His shoulder isn’t that good. The doctor will confirm it 100 percent this morning, but it’s 95 percent that he’s on his way home and that is a big blow for us.”
It’s a serious blow to the Boks. Steyn’s incredible long-range goal-kicking – he hit the bar from fully 63m out against Samoa, and kicked another one from inside his own halfway line – not only gives South Africa the ability to put points on the board from stray penalties their opponents concede in otherwise innocuous positions, it also forces the territory issue. If the kicks miss, the opponent is likely either to kick a 22m drop-out long, giving the ball back to the Boks, or try an orthodox drop-out to regain possession, a set-piece that Matfield, Russouw and Spies are more than capable of winning and setting up possession deep in opposition territory.
Drew Mitchell appears to have suffered a text-book hamstring tear against the Russians. He was running on to a ball around halfway, made a cracking pick-up and as he was about to go for full throttle he pulled up sharply, grabbing at his hamstring and being escorted out of touch by a chasing Russian winger.
A hamstring tear can happen to anybody, but Mitchell’s quick return from serious injury directly into the Australian World Cup squad will again have Deans’ critics at his throat. It’s the last thing the Dingo needs. No8 Radike Samo was forced on to the wing against the Russians because of the lack of available wing options, and Mitchell’s injury further weakens his hand. Digby Ioane may very well find himself starting a quarterfinal, broken thumb or not.
However, unquestionably the biggest name on the injury list is Dan Carter. The New Zealand outhalf collapsed with an injured groin in the last All Black training session before the Canada match, and from images circulated on ESPN Scrum.com and BBC.com, he seems to be in serious pain. He was due to captain the All Blacks in Richie McCaw’s absence, but now seems like he may be a doubt for their quarterfinal … at least.
Neophyte Colin Slade has been called into the No10 jersey for the Canada game, but he’s no sort of replacement for the great Carter. Piri Weepu is also capable of playing outhalf, but New Zealand without Carter simply aren’t the same team as they are when he’s there. There’s little argument against the proposition that he is the most influential player in rugby, and while the New Zealand of RWC07 vintage had the luxury of a top-quality back-up in Nick Evans [and an experienced and bang in-form five-eighth in Luke McAlister], the cupboard is a lot more bare this time round.
Carter is so important that the Mole can see the Kiwis running all sort of shenanigans to keep him in the squad for a semi-final appearance, even if it means another player has to be sent home to make way for an experienced outhalf [the afore-mentioned Evans or perhaps recent All Black discard Steven Donald] to bridge the QF gap should Slade not step up to the mark against the hard-working Canucks.