Current rugby professionals, coaches and experts are adding their voices to the promotion of seven-a-side rugby at school-level as a mainstream sport. This, they believe, will benefit young players in solidifying their basic skill-set needed in order to be selected at provincial and national levels. By incorporating seven-a-side training into school rugby, experts also believe, will be of tremendous value for players in the development of the fundamental skills needed for both seven-a-side and15-a-side rugby at school level.
Former Eastern Province player and current GM of the Investec International Rugby Academy, Greg Miller, believes seven-a-side rugby is particularly beneficial for developing the skills of smaller rugby players.
“Seven-a-side rugby is still in its infancy at school level but has taken off well at inland schools. 15-a-side rugby tends to favour size whereas, seven-a-side rugby places emphasis on speed and skills. Players who play both forms of the game will have a better skill-set,” says Miller.
International Sevens Coach Neil Powell, is passionate about the benefits the seven’s game can have on all young rugby players.
“It’s a great game to develop young players’ individual skills. To play seven-a-side rugby successfully, you need to be good in attack, defense and contact skills,” says Powell.
Former Blue Bulls coach and current Sevens Team manager, Ashley Evert agrees, saying “seven-a-side training programmes can make players much more well-rounded than those who have only played 15-a-side rugby”.
“No amount of 15-a-side coaching or playing can hone these skills like the training protocols of seven-a-side rugby. When players return to 15-a-side rugby, they are more valuable because they have the skill-set necessary to play seven-a-side rugby which, when applied correctly, can be an incredible tool,” says Evert.
Powell encourages school coaches to start incorporating seven-a-side rugby from the early stages of rugby coaching.
“I don’t think there is a better game to teach kids, particularly at the under-9 to 13 level, the fundamentals of rugby in both attack and defence. Seven-a-side rugby teaches young players passing and catching, aerial skills, contact skills, vision training and decision making,” said Powell.
According to Evert, there is plenty of room for seven-a-side rugby in SA’s schools.
“There is capacity to introduce seven-a-side in a school setup. Even if the school doesn’t play seven-a-side rugby, I think they could benefit from incorporating some of the training methodology into their 15-a-side setup which can only be of benefit,” says Evert.
However, in order for seven-a-side rugby to be implemented in more schools, there is concern regarding efficient coaching structures at these schools.
“Because seven-a-side rugby is still developing in schools, many coaches have not been trained to coach this form of the game. They are relying on their knowledge of the game from a 15-a-side perspective which is not facilitating in developing the sport. As with 15-a-side rugby, coaches need to be trained in 7-a-side, says Miller.
The Investec International Rugby Academy is a platform that provides both coaches and players to further themselves in both seven-a-side and 15-a-side rugby. The programme enables players and coaches to be mentored and learn from professionals in their position, while allowing current and former rugby professionals to give back to the future of the game.
Both Evert and Powell attended the Academy.
Powell says of his experience at the Academy: “I wanted to up-skill myself as a coach and this course presented the opportunity to do that with all the high-profile coaches that were there. It was my first coaching course and I was still a rookie coach so had so much to still learn about coaching and managing a system”.
For players interested in developing their seven-a-side and 15-a-side skills, specialist coaching is a rare opportunity.
“Players who attend the Investec International Rugby Academy’s courses get coached by coaches that either played or coached at the highest level and in that coach’s specialist area,” says Powell.
When asked what advice Powell would give to young aspiring players, he shares in two important life lessons – goalsetting and hard work.
“I think it is important to set yourself realistic short and long term goals. Find the motivation to achieve them; find your unique “why”. Then lastly, be persistent and work hard to achieve them,” says Powell.
The Investec International Rugby Academy’s next set of Players’ and Coaches’ Courses will take place from 1 to 5 July at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg. For more information, visit www.investecacademy.com or contact them on (031) 940 5565.