The Springboks won the Tri-nations title for 2009 with another superb display against the All Blacks in Hamilton. However not everyone was impressed with the manner of victory!
Brett Harris wrote it is "Time to cut a penalty goal's value" in the Australian after the Springbok victory. His views are shared by many in Australia, but I struggle to see the logic.
He wrote, "When a team has a "rocket launcher" instead of a goal kicker it is surely enough reason for the IRB to seriously consider reducing the value of penalty goals from three points to two. The capacity to kick a penalty goal from 60 metres distorts the game and is a way of accumulating cheap points"
He went on to say "A team can be attacking 40 metres from the opposition line, commit an infringement, and be punished with a penalty goal. Knowing the opposition has a long-distance goal kicker like Francois Steyn also influences teams to play conservatively. Having a kicker like Steyn on the opposition team means you have to play inside your opponent's 40-metre line or risk three points being scored against you every time you infringe"
Harris also felt "conceding two points is still a deterrent as is the threat of a yellow card."
In my view this one again smacks of sour grapes. You can't change the rules because one or two players are simply very good at what they do. Rather than blame the rules, the Wallabies and other sides need to come up with strategies to counter the Springboks strengths and utilise their own.
Last year the Springboks played poorly. The coaching staff were largely to blame, and did not adapt to their rules of the time. This year the Springboks have succeeded because they have the best coaching team.
The players in all three Tri-nations sides are largely the same, however the Boks came up with plans and strategies that no one else has effectively countered consistently this season. The Wallabies achieved this in Brisbane, and it had nothing to do with penalties being worth 3 points.
It has always been my view that if a team infringes, then they should be punished. (The problem of inadequate reffing, and penalising teams unfairly is another issue!). It doesn't matter if you make the mistake in your 22 or on the opposition's goal-line, you suffer the consequences.
Harris is essentially saying it is fine to infringe in certain areas of the field and one shouldn't concede points if far enough away from their own goal-line. In my view it is not fair to infringe no matter where on the field you are. Teams know that if they are in opposition territory and unable to concede points, they will infringe more often because the consequences are are not as severe.
Harris also said, "As goal-kicking techniques improve the range of goal kickers will also increase and long distance kickers will become more common." I don't believe that will happen. The legendary Don Clarke was able to kick goals from 50-metres out with a leather ball and the torpedo style kick. based on Harris' logic, kickers should be banging them over from 100 metres now!
The game of rugby has always been heavily influenced by goal-kicking. It's part of the game. Scores of 6-3, 9-6 etc etc were common many years ago and made rugby the game it is today. Nothing needs to change.
We don't need to necessarily see massive amounts of tries. Not at the expense of the fundamental contest for possession and rewarding teams that are dominant in the key elements of the game, set pieces, breakdowns, physicality etc.
Each Tri-nations game this year (so far) was won by the dominant side. In South Africa the game has never been more popular, their fans want to see their side winning. I'd suggest to Mr Harris that if the Aussies were also winning, the Australian public would care less how many points a penalty was worth.