He was the villain in Dunedin but Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley has been praised for keeping the faith with his goalkicking technique.
Nicknamed the ‘Ice Man’ for his usual dead-eye accuracy, Foley missed three conversions and a penalty in the second Bledisloe Cup Test last month at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Those nine points proved costly as Australia fell in a heartbreaking 36-29 defeat to New Zealand, who retained the coveted trans-Tasman trophy for the 15th year running.
But Foley, 28, hasn’t missed a single shot on goal since, kicking flawlessly in Australia’s last two Tests against Argentina and South Africa.
“If there was anything major, then you have to really sit down and dissect it,” Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne said.
“But there was nothing major there.
“As far as I could see, he was just a bit quick on the ball.
“We talked about that, got his rhythm back and he was right.
“It’s like in any sport – golfers are a classic one. We look at (Marc) Leishman, he’s just won a tournament but you go back to a tournament he had before, he wasn’t hitting the ball really well there.
“You just have those moments… up until that game and since that game, he’s been going well.”
Foley’s rediscovered range comes at an ideal time for the Wallabies, who face the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning (AEST).
Goalkicking was the difference the last time they played in South Africa, when they were beaten 18-10 at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld.
Australia scored the only try of that game through Scott Sio, which Foley converted after landing an early penalty.
But superboot Reece Hodge missed three shots on goal – two of which would have put the Wallabies in front.
“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,” Byrne said.
Rated by Byrne as one of the best kicks he’s ever seen, Hodge has kicked just two penalties from eight attempts across his 17-Test career and hasn’t slotted one for the Wallabies in over a year.
But he will again be permitted to unleash from distance and use the thin air of South Africa’s Highveld to his advantage if the opportunity arises in Bloemfontein.
“The beauty of that is, if you’re going to go in and try and slow the ball down and you know the guy’s going to kick penalties from there, you might have a second thought about giving away a penalty from 55m out,” Byrne said.