Foley keeps the faith to get back on course with kicks
TO UNDERSTAND why Bernard Foley couldn't buy a goal in Dunedin but hasn't missed a kick since, you have to look at another Aussie athlete who strikes a ball off a tee: Marc Leishman.
Leishman was the toast of the Australian golf world last week when he pocketed $2 million for winning the BMW Championships in Chicago. The Victorian's second win of the year on the PGA Tour came, however, just two tournaments after he'd missed the cut in the Northern Trust.
Leishman bounced back swifty to finish third in his following tournament and then win the next.
According to Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne, the key to success in psychologically-fraught skills like golf or goal-kicking is "faith, especially when you have a hiccup”.
And it's why Foley - after kicking two from six in Dunedin - has since kicked 12 straight goals against South Africa and Argentina.
"It's like in any sport; golfers are a classic one. We look at Leishman, he's just won that tournament but you go back to a tournament he had before, he wasn't hitting the ball really well there,” Byrne said.
"You just have those moments at the top end. You can't get concerned about what happened or why it was this, or why it was that, because you get caught up in stuff that's not really there.
"You trust your rhythm, go back and work on what you need to work on. There were a couple of little things we focused on but the main thing was, just get back into your rhythm and trust yourself. Because up until that game and since that game, he's been going well.”
Foley's missed nine points in Dunedin could have seen a different result - Australia lost by six - but there was no major issue other than being a "bit quick on the ball”. The Wallabies no.10 quickly resolved it, rediscovered his rhythm and has since kicked 5/5 against the Boks and 7/7 against the Pumas.
Having the "Ice Man” on deck will go a long way to the Wallabies' toppling the Boks in Bloemfontein. Four of the last six games between the two teams have been decided by six points or less.
"Goalkicking's a big part of it,” Byrne said.
"Here, especially, if it's going to be a tight game, you've got to get your three points or your two points when they're on offer.”
The benefit of having Reece Hodge in the team as well is that the Wallabies have a kicker who can point to the sticks from behind the halfway line.
Byrne is a huge fan of Hodge's prodigious right boot - he kicks for the line as well - and says it has the potential to change the way a rival thinks.
"The beauty of that is, if you've got a guy who can kick the ball from 55m ... you might have a second thought about giving away a penalty from 55m out,” Byrne said.
"It might just be enough to say to a team, if you want to start giving away penalties here... extend the (danger) zone.'
Hodge only has two from eight attempts at Test level but Byrne isn't concerned.
"His action's really good. The problem with Hodgey is when he steps up and kicks them, he's kicing them from about 100m away,” he said.
"There's not many blokes that are nailing 100% at that range.”