South Africa hero Morne Steyn admits he had previously written off his Test career before stepping off the bench to snatch a dramatic series victory over the British and Irish Lions for the second time.
Veteran fly-half Steyn was brought back for his first national team appearance in almost five years and celebrated the occasion by condemning Warren Gatland’s Lions to an agonising 19-16 defeat and a 2-1 tour loss.
The 37-year-old, who settled the 2009 series in the Springboks’ favour with a crucial late penalty, replicated that achievement on Saturday evening with less than two minutes remaining at Cape Town Stadium.
Steyn last year returned home to rejoin the Vodacom Bulls following seven years at French club Stade Francais and was left revelling in his unexpected international renaissance.
“For a kicker, it’s special occasions like that that you put all the hard work in during your whole career for,” he said.
“You always dream of that one kick to win a series or a championship. Luckily it paid off today.
“I came back after six years in France and I didn’t expect (to be) playing for the Springboks again, I thought it was all over.
“But it all went well at the Bulls and I had the opportunity to play again.
“At this moment, I am just taking it year by year as life goes on. I will never say no to the Springboks, so as long as they want to pick me I will always be available.
“I am just enjoying the moment now and enjoying every moment in the green and gold.”
The Lions, reeling from last weekend’s crushing 27-9 loss, were by far the better team in the opening period but their dominance only yielded a narrow 10-6 half-time advantage.
South Africa rallied after the restart and, thanks in part to Cheslin Kolbe’s try, were level in a topsy-turvy encounter at 16-16 with the clocking ticking down.
Steyn had replaced the uncharacteristically wayward Handre Pollard with 16 minutes remaining and calmly produced the series-deciding moment with the second of his two penalties.
Comparing the vital kick to the one he nailed in Pretoria 12 years ago, he said: “It’s a bit long to remember what exactly happened in 2009 but it was almost exactly the same situation.
“We were also tied up and had a final kick to win the game – that one was 54 metres and this one today was about 25 metres, so it was a bit better for the old legs.”
Steyn last pulled on a South Africa jersey against New Zealand in October 2016 and was picked on the bench ahead of Elton Jantjies.
He more than justified that selection, with Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber admitting he was too nervous to watch a “fairytale” ending.
“I’ll be honest, on Morne’s kick I was sitting with my head between my legs, so didn’t see the kick, I just listened,” said Nienaber.
“I didn’t see it but I am happy for him in terms of having that opportunity and it’s almost like a fairytale. He did it 12 years ago and today again. Hats off to him.
“On Wednesday it was a discussion between the two (Steyn and Jantjies), we could have gone either way and we felt experience in this particular environment was the key.”