Place kicking – letting the scoreboard tick over

Percy Montgomery on his way to another successful goal kick

The three best goal kickers since the year 2000 are undoubtedly Dan Carter, Leigh Halfpenny and Percy Montgomery. Many consider Montgomery the best fullback South Africa has had in the professional era. His no-nonsense simple kicking style resulted in him being seen as a kicking metronome. If he stepped up to take a kick, you knew it was going to be over.

There are however many different approaches to kicking at goal. The biggest difference comes in with a player’s pre-kick ritual and how they run-up to the ball. The kicking motion however is almost identical for all kickers.

Many have seen the Damian McKenzie smile, the arms to the side from Quade Cooper, Elton Jantjies’ hands in front of his face and of course Dan Biggar’s whole shoulder-brushing-adjusting-his-clothes dance.

Although all of these are very entertaining they do actually serve a purpose. We will however start with a far more basic look at the whole kicking technique. Then we will get into these weird-looking quirks of players and why they are also important.

Goal kicking technique of the tee

The most important thing to remember is that not all kickers approach goal kicking the same. Everyone does it slightly different and that is perfectly fine. It is actually crucially important you find a way that works for you and ALWAYS stick to that.

The basics of goal kicking are however relatively simple and we will run you through the steps.

Step 1: Setting up the ball when place kicking

setting up the ball to kick at goal

When setting up the ball, you want the point of the ball facing your target. We suggest that you set up the ball to lean slightly forward. This allows you to naturally hit the sweet spot when you strike the ball. In the picture, it would be the blue and white section just below the letter “G”.

Depending on your kicking technique you will either kick the ball straight or the ball will curve slightly to the left or the right.

The setup of the ball is then simply based on the way the ball flies when you kick it:

  • If you kick straight, you aim the point of the ball at a spot between the two posts
  • If the ball curves to the left, you aim the point of the ball at the right post
  • If the ball curves to the right, you aim the point of the ball to the left of the post

Step 2: Start visualizing the kick

If you visualize the kick in exactly the same way every time you kick, it helps you to tune out any outside distractions. It calms you down and takes you into your own world. The kick then gest easier as it is just like you practiced it.

This is about your own story about that kick and I can’t tell you what to do. We will get to some insight on the interesting kicking visualizations that top kickers go through at the end of this page…

Step 3: The run-up to the ball

The run-up to the ball differs from one player to another. The general best idea however is to start with your non-kicking foot next to the ball (about 10 cm away) and your other foot planted behind it.

Some players like a two-step run-up (Percy Montgomery), while many others go for 3 or 4 steps. This is your choice based on what you feel comfortable with.

One thing to note is that if you keep it simple there is a far smaller chance of making a mistake. If your run-up is also too long, it will give opposition players an opportunity to charge down conversion kick attempts.

After you have taken your steps back, you should take steps to the side to create a 45-degree angle to the ball. If you kick left-footed you will take steps to the right to create the 45-degree angle. If you are right-footed, you will take steps to the left.

Step 4: Where you plant your foot

This is one of the parts of place kicking that stays the same. You should always plant your foot next to the ball.

If you plant it a little behind the ball you will not strike the ball in the sweet spot and it will have a horrible draw to it.

Planting your foot a little past the ball is an even worse idea as it then just becomes weird trying to kick it.

Step 5: Striking the ball

Striking the ball with the right part of your foot when kicking

When striking the ball you want to strike it with the hard part of your foot just above the big toe. This will generate the most power and allow for the most accurate kick.

At the moment of impact your body should be facing the posts and it is critical that you keep your head down until after the strike.

If you lift your head earlier your whole body will open up too much and you are more likely to kick the ball too high up on the ball and make a total mess of it.

Step 6: Use your whole body when kicking

This may sound weird as you kick it with your foot after swinging your leg. That will work from very close range, but it is not the way to progress as a kicker.

When you use your legs, core, hips and upper body, you are able to get a lot more power into the kick.

If you have a look at top layers when they kick there are a few things to take note of:

  • The non-kicking leg is slightly bent
  • They fall away a little to the side
  • Their kicking leg goes back a long way
  • Their heads are always down

The idea with this is that you allow your hips and core to start the process by driving the kicking leg forward. The power is then gradually transferred from the core and hips to the thighs, then through the knee and into the lower leg and the foot.

Your upper body is used for both balance and to help with the motion through your hips and core.

Step 7: Following through the kick

The kick doesn’t stop when you have striked the ball. After striking the ball your kicking foot must follow through until it gets past horizontal in front of you.

Only once your leg is up there, can you lift your head.

That might sound like overkill, but if you force yourself to do this every time, you will ensure that you kick it the same every time.

The weird pre-kicking rituals of top goal kickers

It might sound a little crazy and it sure looks a little crazy but the pre-kicking rituals are a crucial part of every kicker’s routine.

The rituals help them to focus on the job at hand and gets them into a zone where all outside distractions disappear.

Here is what some of the top kickers have done over the past few years:

  • Jonny Wilkinson – you don’t see anything too dramatic from him but he does a specific visualization. He sees a woman between the uprights holding a soda can. When he kicks he tries to pinpoint the location of the soda can and tries to hit it out of her hands
  • Elton Jantjies – when he is holding his hands up in front of him, you can often see his lips moving but what is he saying. He talks about the fire that he is putting into his hands. He talks about the power of the fire and how it will go into his leg and foot when kicking. Just before striking the ball, you will see his hands drop in front of him. This is when he transfers that fire into his kicking foot
  • Damian McKenzie – he sets up his kick and then you see that smile! He cracks the smile to help him relax. He is VERY energetic in so many areas of the field and pulls off amazing plays. When he has to slow down and concentrate on the kick, he tries to make sure that he doesn’t tense up. Throughout a game, he looks to the crowd to help fuel his good humor. Then just before kicking, he smiles and that relaxes him so that he can kick.