Celebrated former Springbok back Braam van Straaten is set to become the Wallabies’ full-time kicking coach.
Following two brief stints with Australia during their just completed Tri-Nations visit to South Africa, the Bok ace so much impressed the Aussies that they offered him a full-time contract.
“I will fly to Sydney for 10 days In October and it looks like I will sign a contract till after the World Cup in 2011,” Van Straaten told rugby365.com in an exclusive interview on Monday.
The offer came in the wake of the Wallabies’ dramatic last-minute 41-39 win over the Bok in Bloemfontein at the weekend – with a Kurtley Beale penalty consigning South Africa to the wooden spoon in the Tri-Nations and Australia taking away the Mandela Plate.
Van Straaten, capped 21 times for the Boks between June 1999 and November 2001, spoke enthusiastically about the willingness of the Wallabies to learn from an ‘expert’.
“Is was involved with the [Wallaby] team in Cape Town for three days and also [at their base] in Durban for two days,” he said of the Australians’ visit in the past fortnight.
“I looked at their kicking in general and got them to be more compact.
“We managed that with [great] success,” he said, and then chuckled when it was pointed out to him that he was perhaps a bit too successful in the eyes of his fellow South Africans.
However, he was proud to have helped turn around Australia’s kicking woes – which saw them lose a Test to England in June, when Matt Giteau had a goal-kicking success rated of barely 30 percent and missed a sitter from in front of the posts that could have won them the Test.
The fallout of that performance was enormous, with Wallaby coach Robbie Deans threatening to axe Giteau as chief goal-kicker and even subjected all his kickers to a series of trials at training.
However, the turnaround in the Australians’ kicking fortunes has been as dramatic as that loss was in June.
“Matt Giteau hasn’t missed a single kick at goal in the last two Tests and then there was that last kick of Kurtley Beale, which was an exceptional kick,” Van Straaten said of his stint with the Wallabies.
This will be the 38-year-old Van Straaten’s first full-time contract at international level.
“I have done a lot of kicking consultancy with various unions, as well as universities in the Varsity Cup,” he told rugby365.com.
However, the opportunity to share his knowledge was just too good to turn down.
“It is the professional era,” he said, adding: “You should not be blinded by other issues [such as patriotism].
“I have lots of intellectual property to share with people and there are many opportunities out there.
“I kicked for a very long time and for 35 years worked on my own goal-kicking. What I have learned in 35 years, I can teach to other people … in five or 10 days.”
He admitted that he would like to return to South Africa and take up a similar position, which should not be too difficult, considering his recent success.
“It is always a great honour to be able to do something for your country,” Van Straaten said, adding: “I just think back to my Springbok days, when I played, there is just no bigger honour [than to play or coach for your country].
“So, yes, hopefully one day I will get my chance, but till then I will help where I am needed.”
Van Straaten, who played 11 of his Tests at flyhalf, six at centre and five off the bench, scored two tries.
But it was his goal-kicking, which saw him score 222 points in the Green and Gold, that earned him most of his fame.
By Jan de Koning for Rugby365Tweet