Steyn impossible to ignore

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The Independent Online

Coach Peter de Villiers says that Francois Steyn's "X-factor" made it impossible to leave the Racing Metro centre out of his South Africa side to face Wales on Saturday.

The 23-year-old, who can also play at fly-half or full-back, was called into the Springboks squad for the Millennium Stadium fixture having been unavailable for last weekend's 23-21 victory over Ireland in Dublin, with his club not obligated to release him as the game fell outside the International Rugby Board's designated window.

Full-back Zane Kirchner filled the midfield void at the Aviva Stadium, with the Boks short of options as centres Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier and Juan de Jongh form part of an injury list that includes 13 players.

But with Steyn, a World Cup winner in 2007, now available De Villiers admits he could not afford to leave him out of his starting XV.

He said: "You sit back and look at what a player is all about and if the talent is available you have to make use of it, you don't want to leave talented players on the bench.

"Frans has that X-factor that is much-needed in games. He is a player who may be average for 60 minutes, but over 80 minutes he can pull something out of the bag.

"At this stage, with the World Cup around the corner, there are many things that come into consideration.

"What we saw of Zane was what we expected of him, we were not tested a lot in that area (by Ireland) but we were happy with what he did.

"But Frans understands the defensive roles more as he has played the position more, and when a player like that comes back into the side he instils confidence in the players around him.

"There are two things you can't buy in rugby. You can't buy speed and you can't buy talent, and Frans has that speed and talent."

The inclusion of Steyn at outside centre, as opposed to his favoured inside role, is the only change to the starting XV from the win on the opening leg of South Africa's Grand Slam tour, while stand-in captain Victor Matfield will become the most capped Springbok of all time when he leads the side out on his 103rd appearance.

The loose forward slot on the bench is left empty for now as Willem Alberts, one of the main contenders, struggles to overcome a calf problem.

Steyn will partner Jean de Villiers in midfield, with the former Munster man managing to train today as the tourists continue to manage his nagging groin complaint.

And De Villiers is looking forward to linking up with Steyn in the centres for the first time since 2008. That defeat to Australia in Perth also marks the last time Steyn started a Test in the centre.

"With Frans being much more comfortable in the centre, Zane did a great job filling in there, but with the experience he brings it may mean we may change around a bit during the game," he said.

"He is a big physical boy at 110kg in the centre with great pace. But it will be tough, we know we are up against a great centre combination, they (Wales) haven't named their team but the guys they can select from are very strong.

"We have played together a lot, maybe not in a 12-13 combination, sometimes he has been in the centre with me on the wing or he has been at full-back. But we have played together in different positions and the understanding is there and hopefully we can build on that and enter the game full of confidence."

Wales will name their side for the game on Thursday.