The Springbok flyhalf talks about a long love of golf, drinking wine with Ernie Els, and the strength of golfers in the Bulls squad, writes Michael Vlismas.
How long have you been playing golf?
I started when I arrived at the Vodacom Bulls, straight after school. For rugby players, golf is the most popular thing to do on your days off. We get one day a week off, so I started playing and scraping together a fourball wherever I could.
I saw on social media you were hitting golf balls into a homemade net in your back garden. So, your first round of golf back after lockdown, did you hit it straight and true like your kicks?
Man, unfortunately that net didn’t help a lot. My first round back was tough. Or shall I say, the first nine was tough. I warmed up a bit on the second nine.
Have the Vodacom Bulls always had a strong contingent of golfers in their squads?
I came into a squad with a lot of good golfers and I played a lot of golf with them. Fourie was definitely one of the best golfers in that and the Springbok squad. And Victor and Danie play together at least twice a week.
Who else in the Springbok set-up was always a good golfer?
Schalk Burger is a quality golfer. I’d say he’s one of the best from the Stormers. Maybe we should settle it once and for all and organise a golf challenge between all the rugby unions?
What’s your handicap?
Well, I was in France for six years and didn’t play a lot of golf there. So I’m off a 14 now.
You must have played some great courses overseas on rugby tours …
I have been fortunate. We always try to play overseas when we tour. When we went to the 2011 Rugby World Cup we played some great courses in New Zealand. And Ernie Els is always very good to us as Springboks. He does his best to organise something for us.
Locally, what are some of your favourite courses?
I love the George area and courses like Fancourt and Simola. And a very special one you never seem to get time to play enough of is Leopard Creek. I’ve had some great times there. Before I left to play rugby in France I was invited to play at Sun City, which was great. But it seems whenever I’m invited to play golf I struggle with my game for some reason.
What are the strengths of your game?
I’m quite comfortable with my driver and my short game isn’t too bad. But I struggle with the long-irons from about 160-170 in. When I play with my teammates they always give me crap about my driver. I’ve got a bit of a fade so I get plenty of chirps about that. But as soon as the ball lands in the middle of the fairway, they shut up pretty quickly.
As a flyhalf used to being in pressure situations and having to make tough kicks, I would think you’d be great over those pressure putts to win?
I try to bring that same mentality to my golf, but unfortunately it’s just not the same as my kicking. I am used to the pressure, though. That doesn’t bother me. It just doesn’t seem to have same result on the golf course as it does on the rugby field.
Do you hang out with any of the South African golfers?
I’m great friends with the Afrikaans musician Arno Jordaan, and through him I’ve come to know Louis Oosthuizen really well. He’s a very nice guy. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time with Ernie, usually after a Springbok win. I’d say we’ve spent more time over a bottle of red wine than on the golf course!
Do you watch a lot of golf on TV?
Sure. I missed it a lot when there was no live golf during lockdown. The quality in world golf is incredible. It feels like as soon as Tiger Woods left the No 1 spot on the rankings, that position changes every week. We’ve also got such great depth in South African golf, which is good to see.
Steyn is Morne one of Springbok rugby’s most successful flyhalves with a number of records, including the most points by any player at the 2011 Rugby World Cup with 62. He also holds the record for most points scored by a Springbok against the All Blacks (31). He formed part of the Vodacom Bulls’s glory years when they became the only South African team to have won the Super Rugby title three times. Steyn also played for Stade Francais before returning to the Bulls.