Junior Springbok assistant coach Bafana Nhleko and his SA Schools counterparts have wrapped up a productive series of Elite Player Development (EPD) webinars with schools coaches from across the country.
The aim of these webinars was to align SA Rugby’s structures with the schools, which seeks to ensure an effective pathway to the SA Schools and Junior Springbok teams in future.
Nhleko was joined by SA Schools coach Lance Sendin and SA Schools A coach Wessel du Plessis, as well as their respective assistant coaches, Cobus van Dyk and Katleho Lynch.
They participated in a string of webinars with the U16 and U18 SA Rugby Youth Week coaches and schools coaches in the last fortnight to outline the fundamental skills required at age-group international level.
The purpose of these presentations was to ensure that the players are well equipped with the necessary skills when they are selected for the SA Schools team, which in turn would contribute to successful SA Schools teams and later Junior Springbok sides.
With the Covid-19 pandemic resulting in the cancellation of all the EPD camps this year, the webinars offered the SA Rugby’s junior coaches the opportunity to share their blueprint with the schools coaches, while also equipping them to assist with holistic player development further down the rugby chain.
‘We believe these webinars will assist in aligning our schools rugby structures with the needs at SA Schools and Junior Springbok levels, and that will not only be beneficial to the teams, but to the players as individuals as well,’ said director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
‘The international game is different to inter-schools rugby, and with that the players require a different skill set, so by sharing our SA Schools blueprint with the schools coaches we may be able to close that gap.
‘This is particularly important from a preparation point of view when the players reach the SA Schools teams, as they play physically demanding matches at school on the Saturday and assemble in camp on Sunday only to play their first international on the Friday, so there is very little time to work on their skills.
‘By aligning these structures and positional requirements, the SA Schools coaches will be able to spend more time working on their systems, which is vital if one considers that the teams face the likes of England, France and Ireland, who enter the U18 International Series after a Six Nations campaign.’
Erasmus added: ‘Another benefit of this initiative is that it will stretch over the Junior Springbok team a few years later, as that is the next step for these players when they finish school.
‘I would like to thank Bafana, Lance, Wessel, Cobus and Katleho, as well as our EPD 2 manager, Herman Masimla, and Louis Koen, manager of high performance programmes, for this fantastic initiative, and the schools coaches for their participation. I have no doubt that we will reap the rewards in the years to come.’
The areas covered in the player-development category during the webinars included the physical, technical, tactical and mental requirements for players to advance to the SA Schools team, as well as the vital positional skills needed to compete successfully at junior international level.
The webinars contributed to a productive offering by SA Rugby’s high-performance department during the national lockdown, which also included off-field technical engagement for players, nutritional workshops, strength-and-conditioning monitoring and rugby laws webinars and tests.