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Skill 15

skill 15
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  If we look at the different styles of play being implemented around the world, there is a general trend leaning towards physicality rather than skill. I believe these 2 are interlinked and there needs to be a good balance.The NZ franchises seem to have this balance in sight, some having mastered the ratio to a T, and others still finding their specific mix. Each player is different and brings something unique to a team dynamic and to the playing field, and thus no squad will ever be the same.  It is the coaching team’s responsibility to find, and more so develop the right mix.Size is something which can be acquired, however speed is not. Therefore we are not only looking for a large individual, but an athletic one.  I believe the new Zealanders have mastered the art of finding their athletes and equipping them with the necessary skills to become world class rugby players.I would like to use Julian Savia as an example. A physical specimen no doubt, but when he first came onto the scene he had noticeable deficiencies in certain areas of his game, such as catching and passing and handling high balls, and contesting. 2 years down the line and he is a complete player, with all the necessary skills to fill the no.11 jersey for the all blacks. This is due to a persistent effort by players and coaches to develop the skills of the athlete.The Australians seem to have their coaching and development structures in place, but they lack the numbers and the athletes. This forces them to look after whatever little talent they have, and develop these players from a very young age so that these players stay in the system and thus their ratio of converting amateurs into professionals are increased.South Africa seems to be the exact opposite of the Australians. We have the players, the athletes, the speedsters, but because of this abundance of talent we take it for granted, and instead of developing a player, we simply replace one for another.The coaching development in our country is limited and it seems like everyone is trying to keep their little note book a secret. Top schools and the monopoly provinces have developed a conveyor belt for talented players, but unfortunately it is used to sort the good from the best, and if your not no.1 there’s no effort made to really try and get you there.  These pathways are implemented not so much for player development, but player sorting. Winning at all costs has become the order of the day, from primary school all the way up.So we sacrifice skill for size, because it is a quick fix, especially the further down we go in terms of age. At schoolboy level it is an easy way to get quick results. The new Zealanders are light-years ahead in terms of skills development, and I believe it is largely due to their implementation of weight division rugby! This type of rugby forces players and coaches alike to focus on the skills within the game, and the tactical aspects to achieve results. This allows for skills to be developed from positions 1 to 15, and I am referring more so to catching, passing and evasion than the others. The fruits of this structure is being harvested at this very moment. The amazing rugby we see their national team produce week after week I believe is a direct result. Other international teams have glimpses of this level of skill, but no one has been able to emulate it consistently for 80 minutes, game after game!We need to develop skillful age group players, and by doing so we will see our skillful athletes come through!!

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by Dr. Radut.