The 29-year-old wing started all five Six Nations matches earlier this year in the absence of injured talisman Darcy Graham and he went into the global showpiece in France buoyed by having scored three tries in the last two summer warm-up matches, including a double away to Les Bleus.
But with the fit-again Graham and Duhan van der Merwe handed the two starting berths on the wing and full-back Ollie Smith, centre Cam Redpath and scrum-half Ali Price the three backs chosen for bench duty, Johannesburg-born Steyn had to watch from the stand at Stade Velodrome as Scotland suffered an 18-3 defeat by the Springboks.
With the Scots having posted their lowest-scoring outing since losing the 2019 World Cup opener 27-3 to Ireland and failing to score a try for the first time in almost three years, prolific Glasgow captain Steyn is knocking on the door for a return to the fold when Gregor Townsend’s side return to action in Nice next weekend.
“I was gutted, I was absolutely gutted,” said Steyn, reflecting on being left out of the 23 for the opener in Marseille. “But I also understood that the guys who were picked ahead of me are phenomenal players who are in great form, and I think that’s the good thing about our squad at the moment, that we’ve got that level of competitiveness.
“You just have to accept you might find yourself on the wrong side of that sometimes.
“I’m desperate to be back in the squad next week. Especially with having two weeks off, there’s a real want for the squad to get back out there and put our best foot forward, and I want to be part of that, I want to be in the 23.”
The prospect of facing Tonga brings back “special” memories for Steyn.
In what was his first start for the national team in October 2021, the wing became the first player to score four tries in one match for Scotland as they defeated the Pacific Islanders 60-14 at Murrayfield.
“It was a great day out,” he recalled. “It was our first game at Murrayfield with fans back (since the pandemic) and I did well so I look back on it with good memories.
“It’s an incredibly special day to look back on. I think about how much history Scottish rugby has and to have a small piece of it like that, myself and my family are incredibly proud.
“I remember some pretty hard hits as well that day so I’m sure it will be a tough game next weekend.”
Steyn reflected on events in the Scottish camp this week after hooker Dave Cherry was forced to withdraw from the squad with concussion sustained after a fall at the team’s hotel last Monday and Stuart McInally – due to retire after the World Cup – was drafted in as his replacement having missed out on selection last month.
“We’re gutted for Dave that it’s ended like that,” said Steyn. “We wish him well. We’re happy first and foremost that he’s healthy and he’ll be OK.
“The flip side is that we’ve got Rambo (McInally), who didn’t make the squad and was retiring on 49 caps and so it’s great to have someone with that experience who is also bringing a fresh energy in.
“You can see his desire to get out there and get his 50th cap, so it’s great for the squad to have him with us.”