BOKS, TJOPS & DOPS: Springboks goal-kicking takes a risky turn

The Springboks are shaking things up with their risky Springboks goal-kicking strategy for their must-win Rugby Championship match against New Zealand. Ditching a recognized kicker in their starting lineup, the team will instead rely on Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, and Faf de Klerk to share kicking duties.

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Manie Libbok, a proven goal-kicker, will wait in the wings on the bench as insurance. This unconventional approach could have fans on the edge of their seats, wondering if it’ll pay off or end in disaster.

A bold strategy

Jacques Nienaber, known for his pragmatism, has chosen to gamble by selecting utility back Damian Willemse as the starting flyhalf in Handre Pollard’s absence and Manie Libbok as his potential replacement. If Nienaber wanted a more reliable kicker, he would have had to start Libbok, who would be playing in only his fifth test, against the mighty All Blacks.

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Going with experience means turning the kicking tee into a floating trophy between Willemse, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, and winger Cheslin Kolbe, as was the case during last year’s end-of-year tour. 

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South African fans worried about the Springboks goal-kicking strategy of facing the old enemy without a recognized kicker might feel uneasy knowing Nienaber has sounded rather casual about the whole situation, admitting they still hadn’t named a kicker internally when announcing the team.

Nienaber’s approach to Springboks goal-kicking

Nienaber revealed they’re considering several options for the goal-kicking role. “At the end-of-year tour last year, we said Damian Willemse, Cheslin, and Faf can kick for poles, so they’re kicking for poles… We’re measuring their training, their kicks at poles, and who’s in good form and rhythm,” he said. With input from assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, they’ll decide who takes on the responsibility.

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A designated goal-kicker with a success rate above 80% is essential, as matches between the Boks and All Blacks are often determined by a few points. The Wellington fixture four years ago, for example, required a last-minute conversion by Pollard.

Assessing the Springboks goal-kicking trio

In this Springboks goal-kicking strategy, Willemse, Kolbe, and De Klerk each bring distinct attributes to the role. Kolbe has a natural footballer’s pure strike of the ball, while De Klerk’s left-footed approach to kicking for posts is as cavalier as the rest of his game.

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Although frequently inaccurate, Willemse is the most practiced of the trio. Consequently, he is likely to be first in terms of kicking order. However, this could be risky, as Willemse has a habit of dropping his general play when his place-kicking is off.


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