New RWC ball may favour Boks

2011-04-14 22:07
RWC trophy (File)
Stephen Nell

Cape Town - The Springboks may have an important ally for this year's World Cup - the new Gilbert Virtuo ball that was launched at Newlands here on Thursday.

Springbok kicking coach Percy Montgomery, on Thursday gave the ball that will be used at this year's showpiece in New Zealand the thumbs up.

"It's a much better ball than the one that was used at the last World Cup."

And Montgomery knows what he's talking about. He was the leading point scorer at the 2007 tournament in France, where he notched 105 points, of which 95 came from penalties.

"I think we will see that the players get more distance on their kicks and the dimples on the ball will make handling easier in the wet."

South Africa's opponents could therefore have nightmares about what Frans Steyn will be capable of with the new ball. The utility back is renowned for his ability to slot long-distance penalties.

"This ball is going to travel if you strike it in the sweet spot. The sweet spot on the new ball is also bigger, so the guys will be kicking it far," Montgomery predicted.

The former Springbok fullback also encourages players to use torpedo kicks out of hand.

"If you kick a torpedo with this ball, it's going to travel really far."

Braam van Straaten, a former kicking hero of the Stormers and Boks who now helps the Wallaby kickers, tested the ball before its launch.

"My experience is that it's an incredible ball and will meet the expectations of players," said Van Straaten.

Montgomery, Van Straaten and Louis Koen took each other on in a kicking competition at Newlands with the new ball on Thursday.

Van Straaten, who assisted Lions flyhalves Elton Jantjies and Burton Francis with their kicking technique the past week, said he got "goosebumps" from kicking at Newlands again on Thursday.

"I spent a lot of hours here. It was a huge privilege to be able to kick at Newlands."

While South Africa boast good goalkickers, Van Straaten issued a warning about the Western Force's Wallaby star James O'Connor.

"O'Connor will be one of the best kickers in world rugby for the next 15 years. His technique is the best in my view," said Van Straaten.

"When you analyse O'Connor, it's unbelievable how compact he is. He works well through the strike zone and that makes him a good kicker.

"He does not make many mistakes."

Van Straaten has also had some sessions with Sharks flyhalf Patrick Lambie.

"Pat told me it feels like he cannot miss and that's the kind of feedback I like."

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