Koen shows his class

The emergence of Peter Grant and Naas Olivier as world class goalkickers is a tribute to the forgotten work of Louis Koen, the Stormers kicking coach.

As the criticism at the Cape side’s coaching staff reaches a crescendo after another inept performance against the Blues, the performance of Olivier is hastily forgotten.

The kid, in his first year of Vodacom Super 14 rugby, slotted five from six highly pressurised penalties, none particulary easy.

Evidence of a remarkably talented youngster? Maybe when viewed in isolation. But in the context of the Cape side’s season, and the 89% goalkicking success rate Peter Grant enjoyed, an underlying factor becomes more apparent.

That factor is Koen, whose work with Grant in particular has been astounding. Grant was a 50% kicker six months ago, and Olivier was consistent if not deadly for Leopards.

“It’s more a case of good preseason paying off for the guys,” the perpetually modest Koen told keo.co.za from the Stormers’ latest base in Tauranga. “We worked hard and that work is paying off.

“There aren’t any secrets to the success the guys are enjoying, it’s all about the work they’ve put in. It’s the first time in his career that Pete has had a goalkicking coach, and after a few changes technically, he has flourished. What a kicker really appreciates most is a pair of eyes behind him.”

Koen reveals that a technical flaw dating back to primary school was hampering Grant.

“Goalkicking is a very technical thing. Pete played a lot of soccer as a youngster, and as such learnt to kick with the inside of his foot rather than the top. It’s something that can be coached out of him, and we’ve managed to do that, and through repitition he’s mastered a new and more accurate style.”

Koen’s role extends further to tactical kicking, an area the Stormers have not been particularly adept in. It is a fact the former Springbok flyhalf does not dispute.

“Tactical kicking is an issue. To be honest we haven’t spent enough time on it. In the preseason we decided to focus heavily on goalkicking as we expected a lot of penalties at the breakdown and other areas to be awarded, and we knew our guys had to improve dramatically from the Currie Cup.

“I’ll admit that we didn’t spend enough time on tactical kicking, and perhaps we’re paying for that now.”

Koen is frank in his assessment of the time allocated to kicking. He deems it insufficient, but is quick to acknowledge the difficult balancing act facing head coach Kobus van der Merwe.

“The medical guys have an obligation to keep the guys off their feet during such an intensive competition. They are responsible for getting a rested and fit team onto the field every week, and that does intrude on extra activities such as kicking.

“It is a problem though. I need more time with the guys but at the moment we don’t have the formula to correct it. I will address the issue in our preparatory and planning sessions leading up to the Currie Cup campaign.”

By Chris Hewitt