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Jon Cardinelli

SA kickers raise the bar


Pat Lambie slots a goal for the Sharks against the Bulls Pat Lambie slots a goal for the Sharks against the Bulls

The form of the South African goal-kickers during the first five rounds of Vodacom Super Rugby bodes well for the Springboks, writes JON CARDINELLI.

'Morné Steyn is a warrior,' said Heyneke Meyer shortly after dropping the Bok flyhalf due to some inaccurate performances in the 2012 Rugby Championship. At the time, some felt that Steyn's Test career was over, while Meyer was adamant that the No 10 would bounce back.

The Bok coach was vindicated in 2013, as Steyn spearheaded the Bulls' charge to an unlikely Super Rugby semi-final. He then won some important games for the Boks.

With All Blacks No 10 Dan Carter missing most of the 2013 season through injury, Steyn was Test rugby's form flyhalf.

Steyn will be the Boks' go-to man in 2014, but there will be no room for complacency in what is a crucial season before the 2015 World Cup. Pat Lambie and Johan Goosen have made it clear that they both want to start at No 10, and it has to be said that both players offer more than Steyn on attack.

Lambie (who boasts an 81% goal-kicking success rate this season) has produced some clinical goal-kicking performances in recent weeks, compounding the damage inflicted by the Sharks' forwards.

Goosen (72%) has been less consistent, but much could be said for his game-shaping showings against the Bulls and Reds. The Cheetahs were outplayed and eventually beaten in Brisbane, but it was Goosen's kicking that kept them in touch with the Reds for much of that contest.

Demetri Catrakilis (86%) has battled behind a misfiring Stormers pack, but has nevertheless delivered the goods in front of goal. It was Catrakilis who won some big games for the Southern Kings in 2013, and Catrakilis who kicked a last-gasp conversion in the Stormers' narrow win against the Hurricanes.

Drink that in, Stormers fans. If not for that goal, the Stormers' record at this stage would read: played four, lost four.

Everybody is talking about Marnitz Boshoff (93%), some even in a Bok context. Indeed, Boshoff may follow in Steyn's footsteps if he continues to kick his goals and win games.

It's good to see Lambie, Goosen, Catrakilis, Boshoff, and even Frans Steyn (82%) excelling in a department that has long been dominated by Morné Steyn. The recent performances in Super Rugby will keep Steyn on his toes and ensure that South Africa continue to maintain a high goal-kicking standard.

Steyn wasn't the only culprit during that disappointing 2012 season. His namesake, Frans, missed several important penalties in the Tests played against Argentina in Mendoza and New Zealand in Dunedin. Playing in his rookie season, Goosen struggled with the responsibility and sent a few attempts wide of the posts.

Fortunately for the Boks, the standards should be far higher in 2014. Morné Steyn is the incumbent, but it's good to know that he will be pushed by contenders such as Lambie and Goosen. It also can't hurt for Boshoff and Catrakilis to maintain a high standard at the lower levels of competition.

Steyn joined Stade Français towards the end of 2013, and battled to make an impact, due to injuries. In the past few months, however, he has started eight of the past 11 games and has regained his goal-kicking edge.

Meyer may have decided on his starting No 10 for the first Test against Wales on 14 June. What's less certain is who will fill the gap if Steyn goes down with injury. The Boks need an alternative who is just as mentally strong to kick those match-winning goals.

Lest we forget, it was the All Blacks' fourth-choice flyhalf, Stephen Donald, who kicked the decisive penalty goal in the 2011 World Cup final. History has a habit of repeating itself, and so it's good to know that at this stage the Boks are well stocked with excellent goal-kicking alternatives.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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