Goal kicking spoils our 7th heaven_1

When it comes to South African sport, we have to count our blessings. Therefore, the last thing I want to do is whine about a team that has proved themselves as the most consistent top performer on the world stage in any sport over many years. The Blitzboks won bronze at the Rio Olympics, two out of the next three Sevens World Series and trail only New Zealand by a handful of log points four tournaments into the current Sevens series. They have class, skill, flair and great depth, and are a team we can be extremely proud of. But...
When it comes to South African sport, we have to count our blessings.

Therefore, the last thing I want to do is whine about a team that has proved themselves as the most consistent top performer on the world stage in any sport over many years.

The Blitzboks won bronze at the Rio Olympics, two out of the next three Sevens World Series and trail only New Zealand by a handful of log points four tournaments into the current Sevens series.

They have class, skill, flair and great depth, and are a team we can be extremely proud of.

But there is nonetheless a bee in my bonnet … their goal kicking.

In the two finals they lost this season, they scored the same numbers of tries as New Zealand in Cape Town and Fiji in Sydney, yet they had to leave the field as losers after the final whistle.

That just irks me.

At the Cape Town Stadium it was Justin Geduld who failed to convert the Blitzboks only try of the match as they went down 7-5 and in Sydney Selvyn Davids missed both as Fiji managed to convert one of their tries to hold on for a 12-10 victory.

Having lost after being outscored three tries is one thing, but matching the opposition blow for blow and then losing because one little stupid drop kick from the touchline went skew is more than just disappointing.

I can only imagine how disheartening that is for the players themselves.

One could argue that the conversion plays too big a role in Sevens rugby, especially since the rules prohibit place kicking as this would take too much time, a sparse commodity in the format.

I have also heard suggestions that instead of kicking for goal, the conversion points could be divided into certain zones in the in-goal area – for example two, one and zero – and this gets automatically added to the try, depending on which zone the try was scored in.

But all of this is outside the Blitzboks’ control.

For now the only thing they can take charge of is to arrest their poor goal-kicking form.

They can either recruit a more accurate goal kicker at the cost of sacrificing other valuable skills, or maybe place more emphasis on scoring their tries closer to the uprights.

With the sublime skill of the latest crop of players, they should be able to pull off option number two with little effort.

Jaco van der Merwe is The Citizen’s Head of Sport.

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