SA kickers’ flawless feat
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Twenty-nine shots at the posts from the tee by flyhalves ... and all 29 successfully goaled.
That was the stunning, probably record-creating achievement across the two South African derbies in the latest round of Super Rugby 2015.
It is difficult to believe 100 percent efficiency has ever occurred before -- and involving as many as six different players -- in a duo of all-South African games in the competition.
The unfailing success in place-kicking began in the earlier match at Loftus on Saturday, where Bulls flyhalf Handré Pollard nailed all four of his penalty attempts as well as all three conversions for a personal haul of 18 points.
Not to be outdone, Sharks opposite number and Springbok squad-mate Pat Lambie duly goaled all seven of his penalties and both conversion chances for 25 points of his own, although the Bulls’ 4-2 supremacy in the try column made a key difference as they won the up-tempo clash 43-35.
When Pollard left the field late on with an injury, 23-year-old debutant Tian Schoeman duly landed both a penalty and conversion – the latter to cruelly deprive the Sharks of a losing bonus point – to safely retain the 100 percent theme.
Attention then shifted to Emirates Airlines Park in Johannesburg where the soggy, slippery conditions on the night did little to suggest an identical event would occur.
Only it did: in the Stormers’ heart-stopping 22-19 win, Demetri Catrakilis banged over five penalties in five attempts, and substitute Kurt Coleman then slotted the awkward-angled conversion of Siya Kolisi’s try in his own few minutes on the battleground.
For the losers, meanwhile, Elton Jantjies earned a five-out-of-five success rate via four penalties and a conversion of their lone try.
Not too surprisingly, such excellence off the tee at the two Highveld venues on Saturday helps have Lambie leading the competition’s overall points-scorers with 58 (almost 20 a match after a three rounds), followed by Pollard (43) and Catrakilis (42).
The closest challenger from any of the Australasian teams is the Blues’ No 10 Ihaia West (38 points).
Going back to the days of Naas Botha and even well before him, South African rugby has long had a reputation for producing outstanding place-kickers.
The fact that so many penalties have been put over already by SA franchises in 2015, might suggest the country is lagging behind again for try-scoring in Super Rugby, but the three participating countries are actually very close together following round three: the Aussie sides boast a total of 29 tries thus far, SA are next with 28 (Sharks eight, Cheetahs seven the best domestically) and New Zealand lags behind a fraction with 27.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing