AUSTRALIAN kicking consultant and former Springbok flyhalf Braam van Straaten believes goal and tactical kicking have become more important in the modern game as the rugby laws continue to change and teams are forced to adapt their style of play.
Van Straaten, who is also one of the head coaches at the Investec International Rugby Academy, said the solid defensive systems employed by the top sides at international and Super Rugby level had resulted in teams having to find other ways of gaining ascendancy than simply carrying the ball.
"Kicking is a very important part of the game these days," said Van Straaten. "Accurate kicking is vital to win trophies and Test matches and it is an aspect of play that will never die down. We have seen in the modern game that defence has overwhelmed attack and, as a result of that, teams have had to find other ways to keep the scoreboard ticking."
Despite coaching mainly the art of accurate goal-kicking, the former flyhalf believes that tactical kicking is equally important.
"It is massively important. If a team gains good field position they can apply immense pressure on the opposition, as it could result in them struggling to get out of their 22. Over and above that, if players battle to kick further than 20m or 30m they could battle to get out of their own half, so ideally you want players who can kick far and accurately."
Commenting on the heavy criticism levelled at the Springboks during the Rugby Championship for kicking too much, Van Straaten disagreed with Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s critics.
"I don’t think they have been kicking too much, but they need to improve their accuracy. The desired result when one kicks tactically is often to compete for the ball, and if one achieves that, the field position gained can be valuable. But if you do not kick accurately against the Australian and New Zealand backs, in particular, they will carry the ball back and apply a lot of pressure."
Van Straaten also said the Boks had to improve their goal-kicking after missing several kicks at posts this season, which came at the high price of two or three Test victories.
On a personal note, Van Straaten said he looked forward to the 2013 season and that, while his contract with the Golden Lions Rugby Union had come to an end, he would continue his role with the Australian Rugby Union. This also involved working with their star players during the Super Rugby competition.
He admitted, however, that his contract with the Wallabies was linked to head coach Robbie Deans’s contract, and if Deans were to take up a coaching role elsewhere, it would be up to the union’s bosses to retain his services.
Van Straaten also revealed that the Western Province Rugby Union had inquired about possibly acquiring his services.