One of the main positives that France can take from their agonising 29-28 loss to South Africa in the World Cup quarter-final, is that Springboks winger Cheslin Kolbe taught them the value of charging down conversions.
The South Africa winger saved his side two vital points at the Stade de France by charging down Thomas Ramos’ conversion, and that proved to be the difference not only as the Boks went on to win the match, but the World Cup as well.
Kolbe’s opposite man in Paris, Damian Penaud, is certainly one player that has taken a leaf out of the dual World Cup winner’s book and implemented the charge down attempt into his own game. Up against European champions La Rochelle on Sunday, the Bordeaux-Begles winger attempted to charge down Antoine Hastoy’s conversion, taking advantage of a ponderous run-up similar to Ramos’.
Penaud was unsuccessful in actually making contact with the ball, but he may have played his part in putting Hastoy off as he went on to miss his kick. Unlike the World Cup encounter though, this did not sway the scoreline though, as La Rochelle still won 25-21.
Kolbe was not the first person to successfully foil a conversion, but it is seldom attempted by the defensive team. That moment in the quarter-final may be a game-changer though, proving the efficacy of the tactic.
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Ramos recently opened up on that charge down by Kolbe, and has his suspicions about it.
“At first I have an effect of surprise,” he said to Midi Olympique.
“I say to myself: damn, that happened to me! Watching the match again, I don’t feel like I’ve changed anything in my routine.
“When everyone says to you: ‘he left before,’ you want to say it too. I believe that, according to the exact rule, his feet must be behind the line. By the time he leaves, he has the foot on the line. But, once again, we can blame Ben O’Keeffe. But if the video referee had wanted to watch again, or had watched again the image, and considering that there was a fault, he had time to call the referee. It was more the responsibility of the video refereeing. These are two points which could have helped us win…”