Steyn hails Meyer's influence
South Africa fly-half Morne Steyn has paid tribute to coach Heyneke Meyer as he prepares to win his 50th cap.
Saturday's Rugby Championship clash with Australia at Newlands marks a milestone appearance for Steyn, and he has credited Meyer with playing an integral role in his rise to prominence.
Though currently among world rugby's most reliable and prolific goal-kickers, there was a time in the not-too-distant past where his prowess from the tee was not so formidable.
"Heyneke was the coach when I arrived at the Bulls in 2003, and back then I was not the best kicker," said Steyn.
"In fact, I wasn't the first choice kicker for the Vodacom Cup side or for the Under-21 side when I played for them. It was thanks to the hard work I put in over a long period of time with Vlok Cilliers (long-serving Bulls kicking coach) that I was able to develop as a goal-kicker.
"It was Heyneke who forced me to concentrate on becoming a goal-kicker. He told me that if I wanted to play at the top level I needed to work on my kicking game. So that is what I did and I have him to thank. If it was not for him, I would not be here today."
Steyn made his Springbok debut four years ago, and famously kicked the penalty that sunk the British and Irish Lions at Loftus Versfeld, and secured a tremendous series victory.
"That test against the British and Irish Lions where we won at Loftus with my kick in the last minute must rank as my most memorable game," added Steyn.
"That was a special occasion. And then there was the game against the All Blacks in that year's Tri-Nations where I scored 31 points. That game in Durban and the one at Loftus are definitely the ones that stand out."
However, barely a year ago, Steyn found himself facing the ire of the South African public, having missed a succession of kicks against the All Blacks in Dunedin as the Boks missed out on a rare victory on New Zealand soil.
Not only was his goal-kicking well short of its usual standards, but his form and running game had suffered badly, prompting criticism from those who always claimed he offered little with ball in hand.
"It has gone much better for me this year and you can put that down to hard work," stated Steyn.
"Yes, I suppose it is about character. Some people when it goes against them just sit back and accept it and don't resolve to do anything about it, but for me playing for the Boks was always so important and such a goal to aim at. It was always about the jersey for me and when it's not going well you do worry you won't play for the Boks again.
"I made sure that I would stay in the Bok mix and I did that through sheer hard work. The big test for every top sportsman is how he responds to those periods where it is not going well and the form isn't there.
"I feel I have done that but the work has to be ongoing. I missed a few kicks against the All Blacks and even if you are a 100 per cent goalkicker you need to keep working on it until the day you retire."