Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Anscombe nails kicks when needed

With little pre-season practice, Chiefs fullback is doing a sterling job of putting the ball between the uprights

Gareth Anscombe has taken on the goalkicking duties in all three of the Chiefs' matches so far and also crossed the chalk. Photo / Getty Images
Gareth Anscombe has taken on the goalkicking duties in all three of the Chiefs' matches so far and also crossed the chalk. Photo / Getty Images

For a player who didn't practise his goalkicking much in pre-season, Chiefs fullback Gareth Anscombe is doing an excellent job of bluffing his way through.

Anscombe has taken the goalkicking duties in all three of the Chiefs' matches this season - at short notice in the case of the first game against the Highlanders due to Aaron Cruden's groin niggle - and has kicked 20 out of 22 for a 90.9 per cent strike rate.

However, while he will be given the kicking tee in tomorrow morning's match against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, Cruden is likely to grab it back for the following game against the Highlanders in Hamilton.

Coach Dave Rennie said of All Black first-five Cruden: "He's close, he's probably at a stage where he could kick this weekend but we'll probably give it to Gareth again and make sure Aaron's 100 per cent.

"Aaron has been doing a little bit of kicking in practice but not a huge amount. He's striking the ball well but we want to make sure that he gives it enough time to make sure he's injury free and the goalkicking tends to put a little more acid on him.

"It's not major, it's more overload."

Of 21-year-old Anscombe, more known as a first-five, Rennie said: "He's going bloody well isn't he? For a kid who hasn't got much of a history in the No 15 jersey he's doing a great job."

Goalkicking could be important against the Kings at Nelson Mandela Stadium. They defended well against the Sharks there last weekend in a 21-12 defeat, with all the opposition's points coming from Pat Lambie's boot. The Chiefs will back themselves of being able to breach the defence given their firepower out wide, however.

The only change in the backline sees Andrew Horrell come in for Charlie Ngatai.

The changes in the pack are more marked - Toby Smith in for Pauliasi Manu, Hika Elliot in for the injured Mahonri Schwalger, Michael Fitzgerald replacing Brodie Retallick, and Ross Filipo at No 8 - with Liam Messam moving from there to the flank instead of Sam Cane.

It will be Messam's 100th game for the Chiefs.

In looking at the Kings, Rennie couldn't help but hark back to the performance against the Stormers, which fell short in the 36-34 defeat, but almost resulted in victory.

"We scored four tries in the weekend. They conceded only 18 in the whole of last season. Considering the amount of ball that we had, we put them under a lot of pressure when we had it and the key was attacking the channels we needed to, to find the space. When we went close [to the breakdown] we got mobbed and the Kings will be pretty similar."

A throwaway line from Rennie suggested the Chiefs still haven't quite recovered from the disappointment of the controversial finish to the match at Newlands where the Stormers appeared to infringe at a ruck in the final moments only to receive a penalty themselves.

Talking about Anscombe's success rate - he kicked five from six at Newlands - Rennie said: "We would have been keen to see him have a shot at goal in the last couple of minutes that's for sure."

- APNZ

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