THERE has been shortage of critics stepping forward in recent weeks to provide their unvarnished opinions on why the Rainbow Cup is a deeply unsatisfactory way to end the 2020-21 PRO14 season, but you won’t hear Kyle Steyn echoing any of those sentiments.

Not even Glasgow Warriors’ round one mauling by Benetton Treviso has dampened the 27-year-old’s enthusiasm for this one-off competition. 

“The Rainbow Cup is the best tournament in the world if you ask me!” smiles the winger/centre, who made his first appearance on a rugby field in 14 months during that 46-19 loss in Italy. “Every time a report came out that the South African teams weren’t coming, I thought it was going to be canned, and I was thinking ‘please, please do not let that happen’. 

“It’s come at a good time. It’s the end of a long season and I feel I’ve got an important role to play. I’ve got a lot of fresh, bundled-up energy that needs to be spent so I’m trying my best to drive that forward.” 

The timing of the hamstring injury which has kept him out of action for so long could not have been worse for South African-born Steyn, whose mother’s side of the family come from Bearsden. 

Initially brought into the Scottish system via the national sevens team, he signed for Glasgow in February 2019, and having impressed in the centre for Dave Rennie’s team during their run to the PRO14 Final that year, he was added to Gregor Townsend’s World Cup training squad. 

It probably came six months too early, and he didn’t make the final cut, but was back involved during the 2020 Six Nations, making his international debut as a replacement during the team’s excellent victory over France at Murrayfield. He was supposed to be on the bench again a week later for Scotland’s final match of the campaign against Wales – but then the world was turned on its head. 

“I can still remember being on the bus on the way to the captain’s run in Cardiff because for some reason we thought that game was still going to go ahead,” he recalls. “It was gutting that it didn’t. It was frustrating. But lockdown had a lot of positives. It allowed a lot of long-term niggles for all of us to reset, so I came out of it pretty fresh and keen to go.” 

Unfortunately for Steyn, his hamstring had other ideas. “It was only two weeks before that first Edinburgh game post lockdown and I was sprinting at full speed in training when the hammy just went … I tore it off the bone,” he explains.  

“So, I had the surgery and that was supposed to get me back ahead of the first European window at the beginning of December. That would have been 16 weeks, but I got to 13 weeks and I was out doing a rehab run, turned the corner, and it just went again. I could feel it pop. 

“We genuinely don’t know the reasons for it happening a second time. I was running at about 57 percent when it went, so the thinking there is that it was going to go at some stage and that happened to be the moment. I just had to take it on the chin. 

“The mental side of it was tougher [than the physical side]. Especially at the beginning because to start with they kept the injured boys separate from the main squad to try and really keep the bubble a bubble. I found that really tough because one of the big reasons I do this is because I get the chance to come to work with 50 of my mates and be out there on the pitch, and that was taken away very quickly.” 

Steyn managed just short of an hour in that comeback match against Treviso two weekends ago. There is no escaping the fact that it was a catastrophic experience for the Warriors as a collective, but from a personal point of view he was generally happy with how the game went. 

“With an injury like that the medical team is really good at making sure you are as close to having experienced match conditions before you get out there, so before I went out on the pitch I had probably done six or seven weeks of contact, but nothing compares to the game stage,” he reasons.  

“Nothing is as full-on in training as it is in a game, and to be honest the toughest part of it was my lungs. It felt like I was dragging a trailer of lead behind me. Mentally I felt good, especially after the first time I carried. It was a case of: ‘Thank goodness, that’s a relief!’.” 

Now it is onwards and upwards, with arch-rivals Edinburgh due at Scotstoun on Friday night with this season’s 1872 Cup decider on the agenda. 

“I’ve got tons of energy and I’m really keen to get out there on the pitch,” he concluded. “We haven’t won the 1872 Cup in three years so there’s definitely no shortage of motivation here. We need that Cup back in the west end of the M8.”