With rugby players entering at provincial and national levels from as young as 19 years old it is clear that aspiring rugby professionals need to make their mark at school level in order to have a long, illustrious career in the game. Added to this, as a rugby nation, the abundance of school rugby players is overwhelming, making standing out a challenge.
Hoping to level the playing field at school with that of professional rugby are rugby icons Murray Mexted, Dick Muir, John Smit, André Pretorius and many more, who aim to help young players fast-track their knowledge and skills, understand what it takes mentally, behind-the-scenes and on field to become a professional, and to grow the pool of talent available for selection.
“I think what we have learnt in the modern day, is that there is a wider range of skills required throughout every position and building on those skills is essential to being able to play at a certain pace and level,” says former Springbok Captain, John Smit.
These former and current, provincial and international, players and coaches have joined forces as part of the Investec International Rugby Academy to educate young players regardless of what team they are in, what school they go to or what level of the game they play.
“We put players in pressure situations to learn to be able to make decisions and, also, not to be scared when they make mistakes. A platform like the Academy is a great way to enhance yourself as an individual and as a player or coach, and to be able to be taught by players who have experienced the professional game – you can’t get a better area to learn from,” says current Sharks consultant coach and former Springbok Assistant Coach, Dick Muir.
“We have a great deal of specialisation. Bringing this sort of expertise together sets a certain standard. We aim to give players the right knowledge for the right start, and it’s then up to them whether they make it or not,” says former All Black Captain, Murray Mexted.
Understanding that school coaching goes hand-in-hand with developing future talent, the Investec International Rugby Academy also focuses on keeping coaches up-to-date with the latest, international coaching methods to maintain the professional standard from an early age.
“Knowledge-sharing, especially amongst coaches, is one of the most important things we have to work on as a country. If we can introduce an environment or culture of knowledge-sharing by creating a network amongst players and coaches, it makes everyone comfortable to, not only learn something new, but also to be able to impart something that has worked for them,” says Smit.
Position-specific coaching, skills work and mental toughness are high on the learning agenda for all age groups. High school players (ages 14 to 17) are offered two options – a 5-Day Players Course or an Advanced Players’ Course (seven days). Primary school players (ages 11 to 14) spend four days in the Intermediate Players’ Course, while junior primary players (ages seven to 10) spend three days focusing on building a solid foundation in the game.
“There’s always a feeling of character on the Academy’s courses; character players and coaches that you meet here. It’s like-minded people who want to be involved, give back, and learn during a strenuous week,” says former Springbok, André Pretorius.
For more information about The Investec International Rugby Academy’s Courses, taking place during the school holidays from 25 to 29 June and 13 to 19 December at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg, visit www.investecacademy.com or contact Greg or Bernadine Miller on (031) 940 5565.