Why Morné Steyn?
That probably was the first question from many South Africans, including staunch Bulls supporters, when the initial rumours about a return to Pretoria for the Bulls points record-holder surfaced over the weekend.
The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd confirmed on Tuesday that the former Springbok flyhalf from Stade Francais, who turns 35 on 11 July, will in fact re-join the Bulls for the 2020 Super Rugby season.
♦ It is a decision they didn’t take lightly, but a wise one.
They will be without their Springbok flyhalf and current captain Handré Pollard next year. He joins Montpellier, where the more than R20 million a year will make him one of the top-paid players in World rugby.
The Bulls will have one quality flyhalf left: Manie Libbok (21).
One could call Libbok a rugby free spirit. He does things no other flyhalf would contemplate or attempt, most of them brilliant in execution, others that harm his side in crucial moments.
And, at the risk of it perhaps sounding derogatory about Steyn, there simply is no other quality flyhalf in South Africa that could have stood in for Pollard after his departure.
Yes, there are a couple of younger ones, probably not as talented as Libbok but as – or even more – inexperienced.
Although he played much of his rugby in France this year as fullback after the club signed Argentine Nicolas Sanchez to back up Frenchman Jules Plisson at flyhalf, Steyn is still a class if somewhat slower act.
Steyn’s role will be as playing flyhalf, mentor to Libbok and whoever else the Bulls contract as flyhalf, and as a leader. The franchise has lost several players who were part of the leader group like Duane Vermeulen (overseas), Pollard, appointed captain for the year Lood de Jager who was then injured, and Jesse Kriel.
Vintage Morné it will not be going forward. But he still played a huge role for his club Stade Francais in what is probably the toughest club league in the world this year.
And, although it may be from the nostalgic past, Steyn has pedigree.
♦ Steyn is still the all-time leading points-scorer (1449 points) of and played in 124 matches for the Bulls. He left the franchise, the only one he ever played for in South Africa, in 2013 to join Stade Francais.
Steyn also played 66 test matches for South Africa and scored 736 points.