Morne Steyn is hoping a return to the highveld – and more familiar conditions – will help him return to his best in the goal-kicking department.
The Springbok No 10 didn’t have the greatest day out in the first Test against England in a wet Durban last Saturday, kicking four out of seven in the Bok win, but he says moving up to Johannesburg this week can only do him good.
“It’s better to kick at altitude,” he said yesterday when quizzed about his off-day in Durban. “Joburg’s closer to Loftus so I’ll feel more at home. In Durban and Cape Town, the ball doesn’t always travel the way you want it to, so it’s better kicking up here.”
The Boks tackle England at Ellis Park on Saturday in the second of their three Tests. It’s a venue where the Boks have generally been successful in the past, and Steyn, too, is hoping to make a big step up in his game.
“I thought as a team we got off to a slowish start last weekend, but as the game went on we got better ... so it was a good start from a team perspective.
“As for me, my kicking wasn’t up to standard. The conditions were tough (it was fairly windy), but these are things one has to deal with as a kicker and I’m not making excuses.
“I set high standards for myself, I’ve been around 90 percent (success rate) this year and Saturday’s performance wasn’t good enough.”
While Steyn has worked extensively at the Bulls with kicking coach Vlok Cilliers, now at the Boks he is working with Louis Koen. The Bulls kicking machine, however, says the change of coach has got nothing to do with how successful one is during the game.
“Training in the week is all about building the confidence... it’s on the day that matters,” he said. “Myself and Louis have chatted about what went wrong last week and we found that I maybe allowed for too much wind.”
Steyn said the Boks would also be looking to make an improvement in their tactical kicking statistics this weekend. He explained that in Durban the Boks had been successful with 60-70 percent of their tactical kicking – that is gaining territory or winning the ball back after kicking it – but that they wanted to get up to the 80 percent mark.
“Francois Hougaard battled a bit with his box-kicks ... he was under a lot of pressure, but then the forwards didn’t clean quickly enough for him.
“Once we figured out what was wrong and chatted at halftime, things went much better in the second half,” Steyn said.
“We want to up our stats here and I’m sure it’s going to be better this week.”
One thing Steyn and Hougaard, and for that matter the coaching team, can’t complain about is the chasing of the high kicks. There’s a saying in rugby that a kick is only as good as the chase and when it comes to Springbok rugby no one can moan about players not putting pressure on the receivers.
“Bryan (Habana) is playing awesome rugby again and he always chases well. But so too do Bjorn Basson and Zane (Kirchner) and JP (Pietersen) ... they always put pressure on the opposition, and that’s what you want.
“People might not like it, but we don’t kick to please the public, or outsiders, we kick for a reason and when our chasers are as good as the ones we’ve got, we’ve always got a chance to win the ball back when we kick it,” Steyn said.