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Steyn set to be recalled by Springboks

Morne Steyn is set to be recalled by the Springboks when the squad is named on Saturday for the June quadrangular series with Italy, Samoa and Scotland.

The 28-year-old Bulls fly-half is back to his goal-kicking best, topping the Super Rugby scoring charts going into the weekend with 181 points from 12 games.

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That 15-points-a-match average has pushed him 18 points clear of closest challenger but currently injured Chiefs full-back Gareth Anscombe.

It has also left Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer with little choice but to call up the unassuming, soft-spoken Cape Town-born star with the deadly right foot.

Coastal Sharks playmaker Patrick Lambie, who took over the No.10 green and gold jersey when Steyn lost his goal-kicking touch last season, has struggled lately.

The Lambie slump could be partly explained by having to operate behind a Sharks pack unable to dominate many Super Rugby matches, with the 2012 runners-up languishing in the lower half of the table.

It has been largely the opposite situation for Steyn with a Springbok-saturated Bulls pack getting to grips with life after the departure last year of lock legends Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.

While Lambie is younger and more inventive with ball in hand, Steyn is the form fly-half in a less competitive contest than last season when Johan Goosen and Elton Jantjies were serious challengers.

Cheetahs’ Goosen suffered a long-term injury while training for a Super Rugby match and Jantjies has been erratic since a temporary move from relegated the Lions to Stormers.

Lambie and Steyn could feature in the starting line-up against Italy on June 8 in Indian Ocean city Durban as the former is also a candidate for full-back with incumbent Zane Kirchner battling to regain fitness.

Scrum-half is another intriguing position as Meyer wrestles with the choice of sticking with Ruan Pienaar from Ulster, recalling barely-fit Francols Hougaard, or giving fellow Bull Jano Vermaak a chance?

The Springboks last played seven months ago, pipping England 16-15 in a Twickenham thriller, and wing JP Pietersen and No.8 Duane Vermeulen from the starting line-up are out of the June Tests through injury.

Meyer has not declared his hand on whether overseas-based stars will be considered — he began with Pienaar, Toulouse prop Gurthro Steenkamp and Bath flanker Francois Louw against England.

The local alternate to Louw is Cheetah Heinrich Brussow, a loose-play ‘scavenger’ adored by many South African supporters, but Meyer insists he concedes too many penalties.

Bulls skipper Pierre Spies is the obvious replacement for Vermeulen and superb ball-carrier Willem Alberts should be among the loose trio if he can stay fit with Bull Arno Botha a possible stand-in.

Sharks props Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis and Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss are likely to retain their places, as are locks Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger.

Stormers centres Juan de Jongh and captain Jean de Villiers and left wing Bryan Habana faced England and are in contention while new Cheetahs star Willie le Roux would be the popular choice to replace Pietersen.

Samoa face Scotland and South Africa meet Italy in a June 8 Durban double-header and Nelspruit hosts Italy against Samoa and South Africa versus Scotland seven days later.

Each team receives points and bonus points, using the Super Rugby system, and the final double-header on June 22 in Pretoria features matches for third and first places.

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