Cur­rent Spring­boks should learn from the Boks of yore, who have proven that well-placed drops can

Se­cure wins

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF dan.retief@city­press.co.za

The cel­e­bra­tions that marked the re­cent an­niver­sary of June 24 1995 – the day the Spring­boks won the World Cup for the first time – con­tained a hid­den mes­sage for Heyneke Meyer and the cur­rent Boks. It was good to be re­minded of how nice it is to win the Webb El­lis Cup and the life­long fame at­tached to it, but there was a sub­lim­i­nal re­minder of the method be­hind that vic­tory.

Joel Stran­sky brought glory to his coun­try with a drop goal in the sec­ond pe­riod of ex­tra time – his sec­ond of the match.

Stran­sky scored all his side’s points in the 15-12 win – and six of those came by way of drops, or field goals, as this method of scor­ing is in­clined to be called in other coun­tries.

The drop is an abom­i­na­tion to many, as it can be scored with­out a team even threat­en­ing the op­po­si­tion’s line, but to canny coaches and play­ers it is a way to snatch dif­fi­cult games. Kitch Christie, coach of the ’95 Boks, was a be­liever. Hav­ing cut his coach­ing teeth in North­ern Transvaal in the dom­i­nant days of Naas Botha, he un­der­stood its value and drummed into Stran­sky that he should try to drop more of­ten.

Fran­cois Pien­aar’s team prac­tised drop-kick­ing sit­u­a­tions and Christie made Stran­sky add drop-kicks in his kick­ing drills.

Then came the mo­ment in the fi­nal when the drop was on and Stran­sky made the per­fect con­tact to write his name into history.

And some­where in Eng­land a young fly half, who loved prac­tis­ing all kinds of kick­ing, must have been watch­ing and took note.

By 1999, Jonny Wilkin­son was part of the Eng­land squad and, in 2003, also in ex­tra time, clinched the cup for his coun­try with a drop goal – with just sec­onds left to play in the fi­nal against Aus­tralia in Syd­ney.

And there you have it – two of the seven World Cup fi­nals to date have been set­tled by drop goals.

Small won­der Christie’s mantra to Stran­sky was “re­mem­ber the drop!”

The drop has al­ways been an im­por­tant part of the Spring­boks’ ar­se­nal – go­ing back to the eras of Ben­nie Osler, Han­sie Brewis, Gerald Bosch, Piet Vis­agie, Botha and, more re­cently, Morné Steyn.

In the 1999 World Cup quar­ter­fi­nal against Eng­land in the Stade de France in Paris, Jan­nie de Beer kicked a world record five to steer the Boks into the semis.

But there have also been times when South Africa were put to the sword by a sharply taken drop kick.

Jeremy Gus­cott won the 1997 se­ries for the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions with an un­ex­pected drop goal in the sec­ond test (of three) in Dur­ban and, in 1999, the only drop of Stephen Larkham’s test ca­reer knocked South Africa out in the semi­fi­nal of the World Cup at Twick­en­ham.

How­ever, in the other ’99 semi­fi­nal be­tween the All Blacks and France, it was the two drops by Christophe La­mai­son that sparked the come­back, which gave the French vic­tory in a game many still rate as the best in World Cup tour­na­ments.

There were other times when re­sort­ing to drops might have saved plenty of heartache.

One game that stands out is the lamented quar­ter­fi­nal in 2011 against Aus­tralia in Welling­ton when the Spring­boks dom­i­nated but could not win … an out­come that might have been re­versed had they in­structed Steyn to re­sort to drop-kick­ing.

So while Meyer has of­ten been crit­i­cised for be­ing too fond of the kick­ing game, hope­fully at least a lit­tle time has been spent on pre­par­ing Han­dré Pol­lard, Pa­trick Lam­bie or Steyn, who­ever might be at fly half, to be pre­pared to kick the heart out of op­po­nents with a dev­as­tat­ing drop.

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