Scotland may have unearthed a diamond from Kimberley in the shape of Kyle Steyn, a powerful young South Africa-born utility back who views his new Sevens contract as a stepping stone to Test rugby.
That’s the view of Scotland Sevens coach John Dalziel who likened the 24-year-old Steyn to Calcutta Cup hero Huw Jones and expects him to get a taste of pro-team action during the November international window.
Steyn was among the record 17 players to be named in the core group for this season’s world sevens series, which kicks off in Dubai at the end of November. The University of Stellenbosch graduate, who has a Scottish mother, is still in South Africa, where he has been captaining the Kimberley-based Griquas outfit in the Currie Cup but will return to Scotland Sevens, for whom he turned out in a couple of tournaments last season.
“He made himself fully available, putting himself out on a limb a little bit as he had a couple of Super Rugby teams chasing him,” said Dalziel.
“He’s a 102kg centre-wing-full-back, straight out of the Huw Jones mould. The Stormers were after him but he wants to come down the Scottish route. He’s probably a guy you’ll see featuring for Glasgow or Edinburgh during the autumn Tests.
“He came in the Las Vegas/Vancouver period last season, got thrown in at the deep end a bit. A good kid and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Steyn is certainly viewing the move as an opportunity to progress to the highest level in the 15-a-side game and told a South African website: “I’m contracted to the sevens team, but hope to work my way into the 15-man code. My future lies in Scotland and I hope to make the best of this opportunity,’ he told Netwerk24. “In Scotland, they have a central contracting system, so I’m not tied to a [specific] team. But I do hope to get an opportunity to play for the [Glasgow] Warriors.”
Dalziel was speaking in Melrose, the home of sevens rugby, as his squad for the upcoming season was announced, with another inclusion of note being back-row forward Mungo Mason, a Scottish-born, New Zealand-raised 23-year-old who featured for Edinburgh in pre-season.
Mason emigrated to Bay of Plenty with his family when he was two-years-old. A former Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar at the University of Waikato, Mason also represented New Zealand Under-20s in water polo and was a local Youth Parliament Representative, leading and directing an anti-binge drinking campaign.
Most recently he has been playing in the fledgling American professional rugby league with teams in Chicago and San Diego before being given a chance in the land of his birth.
“Mungo’s a Scottish lad who’s been all over the globe,” said former Melrose and Scotland Under-20 coach Dalziel, who is embarking on his second season with the Sevens squad.
“He’s been brought up in the Waikato system in New Zealand.
“He was identified and did the full pre-season and featured in a couple of games with Edinburgh. Fantastic kid, really switched on. When we reviewed last season what was maybe missing was a robust, back-row type forward who can play that 3 role for us, be good over the ball and bring a real physical edge. He really fits the bill there.”
Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill, who has former Sevens boss Calum MacRae on his back-room team, has been keen to bring players in from the sevens programme, and the impending Super 6 is hoped to be another pathway for young talent, but Dalziel, who hopes to get Scotland back into the world top ten this season, views both in a positive manner.
“In the past when we were successful [in Sevens] we had a lot of players who had been there for a number of years and there wasn’t a lot of development happening,” he said.
“Guys like Scott Wight and Mark Robertson were world class sevens players, but they were at an age where they weren’t going to go to the pro club game again.
“We had really specialised players who had been together for a long time and we started to get the fruits of that, but the purpose of the programme and the funding is about helping the pro game.
“Now, the programme makes more sense, if we can get more Dougie Fifes and James Johnstones back in [to pro teams]. Hopefully, the Super 6 will mean there are more athletes who can come into sevens from the club game and then on into pro rugby.
“And also having players who are with the pro teams, who maybe are coming back from injury and need some form they can come back to us. It’s a two-way street.”