The influx of foreign players into Scottish rugby continues with the emergence of Kyle Steyn as a genuine contender for both Glasgow Warriors and possibly even a bolter for Gregor Townsend’s World Cup squad.
Ten of the recent Calcutta Cup starting XV learned their trade outside of Scotland.
South African centre Steyn got his first run in a Scotland shirt for the Sevens squad but he was always part of Glasgow Warriors and now Scotstoun coach Dave Rennie is looking to Steyn in the absence of the injured Huw Jones and Nick Grigg. Unlucky 13 for them.
Just as Andy Reid was spotted sporting a Hearts scarf, Steyn who is Scottish qualified thanks to his Bearsden-born mother Gillian, was picked up almost by accident.
“Actually it is quite a funny story,” recalls Steyn, “Gregor (Townsend) said when he spoke to me that he was out with Glasgow last year (as Scotland coach) when they played the Cheetahs and it was someone from Guinness who was handing out the man of the match award who knew that I was Scottish qualified. He mentioned it to Gregor. Gregor came back and passed it on to [SRU director of rugby Scott Johnson and I suppose they had a look at my clips, spoke to my agent.
“Apparently it was somebody who knew my Dad and he obviously knew that I was playing only an hour from Bloemfontein, where that game was, playing for Griquas in the Currie Cup. They knew I was Scottish qualified and got in touch with my agent.
“Scott Johnson was out with the Sevens team in Cape Town in December of 2017 and that is when he spoke to my agent and that is when I got a call the Sunday of the Sevens. The Sevens team had also been ravaged by injuries in that tournament and that is when I got the call and got the ball running from there.”
Steyn jumped at the chance and has been part of Sevens squad since last season but only now is he making his presence felt in the fifteen-a-side game. He was part of the wider Scotland training squad when Townsend, pictured, was dealing with several injuries ahead of that crazy Calcutta Cup match. One moment Steyn was enjoying a lazy down week, the next he was helping everyone prepare for the biggest international of the season. He said: “We were on our week off, so I was in bed with a cup of coffee, got a call at about 10.30 saying, ‘can you be in Edinburgh at 12?’ So I said, ‘yeah’.
“It was great to be there and a big learning opportunity being in with them. Another step up in intensity and detail I would say.
“I gulped my coffee down real quick.
“He said it wasn’t quite that rushed, but I was sitting having my cup of coffee thinking about how little I was going to do that day and it was a big change from that point of view. Rugby’s a funny game like that. It’s just the bounce of the ball.
“Unfortunately the national team got hit with a couple of injuries and all of them seemed to be in the back line all at the same time. Opportunities come and you just have to grab them.”
Scotland may have to wait but don’t rule Steyn out of this year’s World Cup before we know who’s fit.
For now, the South African has a fighting chance of a place in the Glasgow’s starting XV that will attempt a win at Saracens’ Allianz Park at the third time of asking. The muscular midfielder scored a muscular try against the Cheetahs on Saturday evening and formed a good understanding with Stafford McDowall, the leggy Scot alongside him.
Sam Johnson will almost certainly fill the Glasgow No 12 shirt for Saturday’s European Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens at Allianz Park but if Steyn starts it will be the biggest match of the 25 year old’s career by a margin.
“Saracens away is a huge game,” he said. “We had a really good start to the game down there last time and it was sort of just the last 20 minutes that got us, so the boys know exactly what to expect.
“We tried not to focus too much on it last week but there’s a big, big week ahead. The intensity and the magnitude of the occasion and I think the hunger that’s going on up here to go down there and get the win. It’s building for an epic clash.”