Israel Folau admits that his tactical kicking will need to be better if the Wallabies are to score a rare win at Newlands this Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Wallabies snatched a late win in Perth on 6 September, with Folau involved in the buildup to the match-winning try. The fullback’s brilliance was also evident during the opening stages, when he broke the Springbok defence and scored a try.
These were two moments that highlighted the game-breaking potential of one of the finest attacking players in rugby union. And yet, it was not a complete and convincing performance if you take all 80 minutes of the game into account. While Folau was a threat with ball in hand, his limitations as a tactical kicker were exposed.
Ruan Pienaar, Morné Steyn, and Willie le Roux all targeted Folau with a series of kicks, knowing that the league convert would battle to obtain much distance and accuracy on the subsequent kick return. This ultimately ensured the Boks had some good set-piece opportunities inside Wallabies territory.
It’s a tactic that worked in Perth, and Folau believes it’s a tactic that the Boks will employ again when the two teams meet in Cape Town this Saturday.
‘I knew they would be targeting me, and I wasn’t happy with my [kicking] performance,’ Folau said. ‘It’s forced me to readdress this area of my game.’
While the tactical kicking battle will be important, Folau should have an opportunity to showcase his awesome running and offloading talents. That match in Perth was marred by wet weather, and this prevented the Wallabies from employing their high-tempo, running game.
The weather should be clear for the game in Cape Town, and Folau confirmed that this will see the Wallabies moving the ball around a lot more.
‘We need to match their physicality, especially early on,’ he said. ‘But I’m hoping we will have more of a chance to run than we did in Perth.
‘The Boks have evolved their game [in recent years],’ he added. ‘You know what to expect in terms of the kicking, but they also have some good attacking players. Willie Roux [sic] is one to watch, and Handré Pollard likes to take the ball to the line. So that gives them more options.’
The Wallabies lost last year's encounter 28-8. If they were to win this Saturday, it would mark their first success at Newlands since 1992.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/BackpagePix