'If this is part of pro rugby, I'd rather not be a part of it'
"JUST wish me good luck and pray for me," Springbok Frans Steyn joked on Thursday ahead of the impending peril he was about to face against Samoa.
Clearly those prayers weren't made, or worse, went unanswered because Steyn is out of the World Cup with a battered left shoulder from Friday's bruising match.
The Samoa match was always going to call on the Springboks' ability to front up as much as it was going to test their tolerance and capacity to absorb provocation.
"I admire the way our players didn't seek confrontation," Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said. "Although we have all this technology what disappoints me is that in this professional era people are still doing things off the ball. If somebody said to me it is part of professional rugby I'd rather not be part of it.
"Some players were punched. Jaque Fourie was punched and Danie Rossouw had to intervene. After Samoa got the red card they were at their worst and didn't seem to care," the Bok coach said.
De Villiers said he would not cite players as that may take away focus from their next challenge.
Losing Steyn before the knockout stages is a devastating blow. He had brought dynamism to inside centre after Jean de Villiers injured his ribs against Wales. His defence has been sound, as it needs to be for any player outside Morne Steyn, who attracts a large amount of unwanted ball-carrying traffic.
Steyn fully applied his 1.91m, 110kg physical dimensions in a position where the long-time incumbent's performances, perhaps due to his struggle with seemingly constant physical niggles, is not what it used to be.
The Boks will also lose the obvious advantage of having a kicker of Steyn's vast range at second receiver. The loss of his Big Bertha boot at goal will also rob the Springboks of their unique ability to strike punitively or via drop goals from long range.
The coach yesterday lamented his loss. Steyn's relationship with De Villiers has at times been frosty but both men, perhaps in tacit recognition of how the other could help shape individual ambition, put their differences aside.
It is, however, now reassuring to have a player of Jean de Villiers' immense powers of perception, tactical nous and experience to fall back on.
What is difficult to escape is the irony of Steyn's injury. He became the inside centre after De Villiers's tournament was terminated in their opening game in 2007 and he stepped forward again at the start of this tournament.
Now the roles are reversed. "There is always a silver lining," the coach said.
"While Frans was ruled out, it gave Jean the opportunity to finish his first World Cup game," which is quite astounding for someone capped 71 times.
"I was just happy I got another opportunity to play. I just hope I did enough to make the team next week again," Jean de Villiers said while he was still unaware of the seriousness of Steyn's injury.
Coach De Villiers intimated he may replace Steyn with a fullback, which puts the Bulls' Zane Kirchner squarely into the frame as back-up to the incumbent Pat Lambie, who again excelled in the attritional 13-5 win over the Samoans.
"I'm not telling him anything," Steyn said about Lambie, the player now cast in the rookie role he played in 2007.
"I just hope he enjoys the team and the World Cup experience. Last time I was the youngest and we won and it was a huge thing for me. I just hope we as a team can give him the same as happened in 2007."