Steyn repeats as a Lions slayer for the Springboks
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Siya Kolisi couldn’t believe the irony.
There was Morne Steyn, the British and Irish Lions slayer from 2009, coming forward on Saturday to administer the coup de grace to the 2021 Lions.
“No way!” Kolisi, the captain of South Africa, admitted thinking.
Yes way, when Steyn nailed the 34-meter penalty in the 79th minute of a pulsating series decider in Cape Town. The Springboks were back in front 19-16 and moments later celebrating a 2-1 series victory.
There were parallels with 2009. Steyn was also a reserve, also wearing jersey No. 22, when he was sent on in the last quarter of the second test at his Pretoria home ground, and clinched that series with a tie-breaking penalty from 52 meters in the second minute of injury time.
“It’s a bit of deja vu,” rued Lions coach Warren Gatland, an assistant coach on the 2009 tour.
That match was the start of Steyn’s international career. This was his 67th test, but first in five years. He returned from European club success to the Bulls last year with a view to developing their flyhalves, but strong club form and consistent kicking earned him a place in an extended Springboks squad.
It’s uncommon these days for players to meet the Lions twice, 12 years apart, and teammates brought up about him repeating his 2009 heroics, as a joke.
But the 37-year-old Steyn played well against the Lions in South Africa A’s win, and was picked for the first time in the test series ahead of regular reserve Elton Jantjies in the decider because he’s a proven performer under severe pressure. He also impressed with his team-first attitude in camp.
“He understands the pressure there will be,” coach Jacques Nienaber said in picking him. ”Hopefully it doesn’t come down to (a last-minute penalty).”
But when it did, Nienaber couldn’t bear to watch.
“I had my head down between my legs when he kicked that last penalty goal. To be honest, I just could not watch,” he said.
“I was just happy for him that he succeeded — it is amazing that he did the same thing 12 years ago.”
Kolisi enjoyed Steyn’s comeback.
“It was beautiful to see him stay strong,” the captain said. ”We didn’t think that he would come back and play and also he didn’t think he would get this opportunity. So I am very happy for him and the team.”
Steyn was rapt to repeat history.
“For a kicker, it’s special occasions like that that you put all the hard work in during your whole career for,” he told the British Press Association. “You always dream of that one kick to win a series or a championship. Luckily it paid off today.”
Asked to compare his 2009 winning kick with his 2021 winning kick, he said, “This one today was about 25 meters, so it was a bit better for the old legs.”
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