OPINION: Goal-kicking under microscope when France, Boks clash
Cheslin Kolbe was entrusted with the duties, and he has kicked for goal in a pinch for his club side in France, but is also not a recognised shot taker.
Springboks Cheslin Kolbe and Damian Willemse are the sides current go to goal kickers on their end-of-year-tour. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Gallo Images
The Boks have gone through a flyhalf crisis this year, with injuries to regular starter Handre Pollard, compounded by off field problems and a lack of game time to his usual back-up Elton Jantjies, which has left them in a bind.
Frans Steyn, was then the third choice to fill the flyhalf void if needed, however his performance at pivot, goal kicking aside, against Argentina in the Rugby Championship left a lot to be desired, followed by himself picking up an injury.
This led to the Boks backing Damian Willemse at flyhalf once again, against Ireland, and with him familiar with the position and having played relatively well in it, it wasn’t a bad selection.
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However Willemse is not a recognised goal kicker, being third choice at club side the Stormers, and the Boks lack of faith in his abilities was starkly shown when he was yanked off the kicking duties after his first miss in the match.
Cheslin Kolbe was then entrusted with the duties, and although he has kicked for goal in a pinch for his club side in France, he is also not a recognised shot taker and showed that when he slotted a nervy kick directly in front of the uprights, but missed his next two from angles.
The Boks have never been known as a team that scores a lot of tries, and thus their goal kicking has become a massive part of their game, with many close encounters won by the success of their kickers.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber rightly said that the flyhalf doesn’t have to kick for poles, but then a recognised kicker needs to be playing in one of the other starting positions, like wing Emiliano Boffelli for Argentina, or fullback Jordie Barrett for the All Blacks.
The Boks do not have that luxury however, and if a similar crisis unfolds next year, they could head into the World Cup in big trouble. A light at the end of the tunnel could be the Boks selection of Manie Libbok on the bench for the game against France, but Nienaber intimated that if it is a tight match he might not get on the field, even though that is exactly when you need a proven kicker in your team.