JOEL Stransky’s extra-time winner in the 1995 final for South Africa and Jonny Wilkinson’s dramatic kick for England in 2003 are just two drop goals that have marked the World Cup.
But the drop goal has been forgotten at this World Cup in the relentless drive for the thrill of the try.
When New Zealand flyhalf Dan Carter struck a drop goal in the All Blacks’ 20-18 semifinal win over South Africa last weekend it was only the sixth scored at this World Cup.
The lowest number of drop goals at a World Cup is 14 at the 2007 edition. The tally is unlikely to be exceeded this year as there is just tonight’s third-place playoff between Argentina and South Africa and tomorrow’s Australia-New Zealand final remaining.
But why the relative absence, given the value of a drop goal remains three points?
Carter’s effort at Twickenham, which came early in the second half with the All Blacks a man down and 12-7 behind, was a critical moment in the game, according to South Africa assistant coach John McFarland.
“The key turning point for me was the drop goal with Dan Carter with 14 [players],” McFarland said. “That gave them hope.”
South Africa flyhalf Handre Pollard had kicked drop goals during South Africa’s wins over Scotland and Wales
“We identified drops as being the key,” McFarland said. “If you look at Handre’s drops against Scotland and Wales they took us clear on the scoreboard.”
McFarland was a member of the Springbok backroom staff when Jannie de Beer kicked a test record five drop goals in a match during South Africa’s 44-21 quarterfinal win over England in Paris at the 1999 World Cup.
Asked why the drop goal was now increasingly rare, he said: “I think the quality of rugby in this tournament has been fantastic. I just think it is going through the flyhalves’ minds to score tries and not win penalties or drops.”
Stransky said the advent of bonus points for tries in the pool phase had made the drop goal a less attractive option.
“The risk is you give the ball away,” Stransky told the Daily Telegraph. “And in the modern game if you give the ball away you might not see it again for five minutes,” he said.
“But done well, it [the drop goal] is difficult to defend against.”