Springbok first five-eighths Morne Steyn has settled the debate over the generally miserable form of goal-kickers at the World Cup by suggesting that poor workmen blame their tools.
A number of kickers, notably Jonny Wilkinson of England, have said that they have issues with the official Gilbert match balls, to the extent that England's kicking coach, Dave Alred, and conditioning coach Paul Stridgeon switched the match ball with balls presumably used by Wilkinson in training during the Pool B match against Romania. The law states that a conversion must be taken with the ball used to score the try.
England's RFU internal admitted that Alred and Stridgeon had "mistakenly thought that there was an issue with some of the match balls used and had taken it upon themselves to substitute balls during the match in contravention of both the laws of the game and the spirit of the game". Wilkinson missed five out of eight kicks in England's match against Argentina and the usually reliable Pumas kickers also missed five shots at goal.
Steyn, who has been successful with 13 out of 15 kicks at goal to be well clear of other kickers at the World Cup, said he did not understand the fuss over the balls.
"For me it is the same ball that we always use," he said at a press conference in the capital yesterday. "Before the tournament the guys from Gilbert came and showed us the ball to be used at the World Cup and it was no different to the one we use in Super rugby. The only difference is that it had different writing and patterns on it but the actual ball is the same.
"So to me there is no difference," the usually reserved Steyn said before adding: "If it is not going well with your goal-kicking you always look for something to blame, but for me you can't blame the ball at this World Cup." That, in a nutshell, is that debate kicked sweetly into touch by the world's premier goal-kicker.
Steyn, looking ahead to Sunday's quarter-final clash with Australia at the Wellington Regional Stadium, said he would be hard pressed to continue his immaculate kicking form - but not because of the ball. "Wellington is the hardest place in the world for kickers," he said. "It has this strange swirling wind that does funny things with the ball. I am [crossing ingers] that for once we have a calm, clear day. I can't recall too many of them at this stadium."
Steyn might be in luck. While rain has been falling steadily since Sunday, better weather is expected for the weekend.
Steyn will have all of the kicking duties as his namesake, Frans, has gone home for shoulder surgery. How does he feel about taking over the long-range kicks?
"It is only the 60m plus monsters that are out of my range. Frans is on his own in world rugby with those ones from his own 10 metre line, but I am not far off. Maybe if this Wellington wind is behind me I can slot them after all," he smiled.
- Independent (SA)