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Make way for young gun Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn will become the second-youngest player in a World Cup final on Saturday, hoping he doesn’t suffer the same fate as All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu who was a loser against the South Africans in 1995.

Steyn, who is 20 years and five months old, compared with Lomu’s 20 years and one month when the New Zealand winger set the record 12 years ago, has been one of Springbok coach Jake White’s young lions, with the dashing centre making his debut last year against Ireland at fullback.

However, the devout Christian — who has played in all of the Springboks’ matches at the tournament so far after replacing the injured Jean de Villiers, and scored a try and a penalty — admits that sometimes he tries White’s patience.

”He doesn’t come down on me, but I think he wishes he could give me a hiding — but it has been good,” said Steyn, who will win his 16th cap on Saturday. ”I like Jake a lot and he gave me a good opportunity and I just hope I can take it with both hands. ”He is not someone who tells you to do this and do that; he is very relaxed.”

Steyn, who scored a try on his debut, confessed that while he may be one of the most exciting prospects in rugby, he has a tendency to make mistakes — like he did against the Argentinians last Sunday, dropping the ball twice in as many attacks and giving the Pumas possession.

”Yeah, I am confident, but sometimes stuff doesn’t happen how I would like it to happen and sometimes I get a little bit hard on myself,” said Steyn, who became the youngest player to don the Springbok jersey in 80 years when he played against Ireland.

”[On Sunday] it was raining and there was a bit of dew. We will have to take our long studs on Saturday.”

Despite his religious beliefs, Steyn can be a fiery character — he was sin-binned in the pool match with Tonga for violent play.

But he says that the experience of playing alongside flyhalf Butch James and centre partner Jaque Fourie has been a real bonus.

”I am enjoying it with Butchy [James] on my inside and Jaque Fourie on my outside, and they have been helping me a lot,” said Steyn. ”It has been quite adventurous and I hope I can just enjoy it on Saturday.”

As for whether he can outdo England’s master of the drop goal, Jonny Wilkinson, Steyn, who landed two monster drops in the Tri-Nations win over Australia earlier this year, is coy.

”It is an instinctive thing so we will see what will happen, but I think there is going to be some, especially from Jonny, as well but we must keep our heads and not try to force stuff and we will see what happens.”

Fourie predicts a big future for Steyn. ”Francois is in the same mould as Jean de Villiers. He’s an exciting player. He likes to do stuff so it’s been easy and he made it easy for me as well,” said the centre. ”He’s a young player and I think in the years to come he’ll become a great player.” — Sapa-AFP

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Pirate Irwin
Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening. 

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