Rugby World Cup 2011
Braam eyes kicking shootout
Braam van Straaten (Getty Images)
Wellington - Australia's coaches may need to give a little more thought to the identity of their kickers just in case Sunday's Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against South Africa does go to a place kicking shootout.
Asked to name the Wallabies' five candidates, kicking consultant Braam van Straaten immediately reeled off a list.
"There's definitely enough kickers in the squad," Van Straaten said Thursday.
"If you look down the line, it will be first James O'Connor, Quadey, Coops, Kurtley Beale. So that's four already."
A voice called out from the rear of the room: "That's three, mate. Quades and Cooper are the same player."
A chuckling Van Straaten swiftly inserted the name of Berrick Barnes at No. 3 in his list between Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale, but acknowledged that Australia may be pushed to find a fifth reliable boot if the scores are level at the end of extra time.
"I don't think there's many teams out there that walk around with five kickers," the former South Africa flyhalf said.
"Now saying that, I might just have to get (prop) Benny (Alexander) in for a technical session."
The Wallabies could really be in trouble if Alexander is called upon to participate in the shootout — which is the tiebreaker if quarterfinalists are locked in a tie after extra time — no matter how willing the big forward is.
But South Africa's kicking options are also diminished after centre Frans Steyn pulled out of the tournament because of injury.
If the kickers do struggle - in a shootout or during the match - Van Straaten is adamant that it won't be because of the wild Wellington wind or the much debated match ball.
England flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson has been the most high-profile player to query the ball after his usually reliable left boot faltered and left him with a success rate of less than 50 percent with his shots at goal.
"I've had a kick out there as well and the ball travelled really true," said Van Straaten, who was involved in the official launch of the ball in South Africa in April. "There's no different sweet spot, I don't know where that comes from. I've missed the sweet spot altogether. There's nothing wrong with the ball, let me tell you.
"It's the best ball I've kicked in my life. It's a really, really good quality ball, nice and heavy and the flight is true and natural. I think it all comes down to technique."
Van Straaten conducts most of his work with the Australia players from back home in George, South Africa. He watches footage of the players online and sends his analysis back to the Wallabies, with any questions or outstanding issues talked over via Skype.
"Whenever I come into camp, it's only really the subtleties we work on," Van Straaten said.
"Getting them nice and compact and getting them to strike it really nicely. There's been some really, really good progression and what's wonderful is the way I've been received into camp."
In contrast to previous years, the Wallabies' squad is a multicultural, multinational group, with Van Straaten just one component assembled by New Zealand-born coach Robbie Deans.
The former Springbok said he'll have no split loyalties when he comes up against his home country on Sunday.
"It's a professional era and I'm here to do a job, to get these guys to have a great day out on the field," Van Straaten said.
"Robbie Deans is a New Zealander and (scrum coach) Patricio Noriega is an Argentinian but we all work together to get the result."
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