Foley relishing Steyn head-to-head
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Bernard Foley's Test career may be in the infancy stages, but he is ready for one of his most daunting challenges.
Bernard Foley's Test career may be in the infancy stages, but he is ready for one of the most daunting challenges on the international stage.
Veteran Morné Steyn, a renowned match-winner, was recalled to the South African starting XV for Saturday's Rugby Championship encounter with Australia.
And Foley, who himself was reinstated in the No.10 jersey after sitting on the bench in the first two rounds of the competition, is well aware of the quality of his direct opponent.
Foley, who experienced a dream Test debut for the Wallabies (scoring a try and kicking two conversions) in Australia's record 54-17 win over Argentina in Rosario last year, will play in his 10th Test Saturday.
Steyn, who calmly slotted a series-winning 55-metre penalty in the second Test against the British and Irish Lions in Pretoria in just his second Test in 2009, is just one match short of 60 international appearances.
Foley, who turns 25 next week, is also five years the junior of Steyn, a man with three Super Rugby and a Tri-Nations title to his credit.
However, the Wallaby flyhalf is relishing the chance to prove he possesses the same match-winning qualities.
Foley pointed to his 43-metre penalty goal to win the Super Rugby Final for the Waratahs, against the Crusaders in Sydney last month, as an indication that he is up for the challenge.
"It reinforces that in the big moments I can keep stepping up," he told a media gathering at the team's training base in Perth.
"It's not always going to be the case, there'll be times when it doesn't go over and everyone shoots you.
"But it does reinforce that in the big moments you can rely on what you've done in the past - you can live in the moment."
After taking the bitter pill of his benching three weeks ago, Foley said he was happy to be back in the No.10 jersey.
"Off the back end of it all it definitely was something to swallow," he said.
"But it's something you do in a day or two and you get over it. You're still representing your country, you're on the bench and you still have a job to do. You're playing in a Bledisloe in Sydney, which was very exciting.
"There was a bit of disappointment there for a second, as every player would [feel] when they get dropped, but then I focused on my role, digested it and looked forward to it."
There are no guarantees for Foley that he is now the preferred No.10, with Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie conceded they are still searching for a winning back-line combination after a disappointing start to the Rugby Championship.
From Bernard Foley and Nic White, through Kurtley Beale and White, and back to Foley with Nick Phipps - that's just this year - McKenzie will pit against the Springboks an attacking halfback combination that went all the way for the Waratahs this year.
The midfield will be thick with starch in the form of Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani.
As the Wallabies coach was at pains to point out: "It's not Kurtley Beale's fault.
"We've made other changes, we're still looking for the best combination.
"We've still got the same squad, we're still investing in the same 23, effectively bar injuries.
"We still believe we've got the right group of players, how we use them varies depending on who we think should start and who we think should finish."