Steyn to shake off kicking woes
Brenden Nel, SuperSport
Johannesburg - It won’t be the first time that his kicking is in the spotlight, but this time Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn will be looking to return to old ways when he faces the Brumbies at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
For a player known as Mr Reliable, the 2012 Vodacom Super Rugby season hasn’t quite matched his high standards, and his three out of eight against the Lions last week was definitely not the performance he was hoping to achieve for his team on the day.
But when you’re known as the dead shot of international rugby, when fans expect you simply not to miss, any deviation can be seen as a slump and right now the task is to pick himself out of this one.
There is no doubt that a few misses doesn’t make Steyn any worse for wear, but with international rugby being a game of inches, those vital points are often the difference between winning and defeat, a trend that Bok fans know all too well from all the close victories he has kicked them too.
Still, Steyn has missed 12 kicks this season, which is uncharacteristically high for him, and with a number of young upstarts snapping at his heels, should serve as enough motivation to right the wrong. Last season’s figure of 79% is slightly down to 72% this season, but still high in international standards. But for a kicker that normally averages above 80%, this will need to improve.
Steyn’s kicking coach Vlok Cilliers believes it’s only a matter of time for the Bok pivot to regain his confidence, and that a dip in form is inevitable when you play at such a high standard for so long. To help Steyn right, Cilliers has shifted his kicking practice from the traditional B-field to the main stadium, ostensibly to help focus.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with his technique. If one looks at the last six to seven years, all the sportsman go through a slump and I think it is the same with Morne who is going through a bit of a dip.In the last five to six games there has been nothing wrong with his technique, he just needs to work harder and harder and doing what we normally do in the last few years,” Cilliers said.
“I don’t think we are doing anything different from the last few years, we are still putting in the same amount of hours into training on all aspects. At the moment his kicking out of hand is brilliant and is standing at 85% success rate. We just have to speed up his kicking at poles and I think he will be ready on Saturday. i also think the people will see the old Morne that they are used to seeing.”
Cilliers also has hit out against some of the criticism that Steyn has received in recent times, saying because fans were used to Steyn’s impeccable kicking form, they were overreacting to the way he had taken a dip.
“I think the people are too harsh on him and I believe that it is because of the high standard he has put on himself with a kicking record of 85 to 90%. He is used to kicking over and now he is missing and suddenly people are on our case wanting to know what is wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him and as i said before he will be back on Saturday,” Cilliers added.
Steyn is set to start the Test series against England as the incumbent but knows all too well he needs to regain his kicking form soon. But for a player who started off being tagged as a running flyhalf and made the shift easily into the kicking role, the hard work will pay off.
It’s not a matter of if, but rather when it will happen though.