National coaching blueprint for SA
The South African Rugby Union, in collaboration with their provincial unions, has implemented cutting-edge technology which will ensure players from as young as Under-13 level are properly monitored and managed on their pathway to playing professional rugby.
The new protocols were presented to coaches attending the first day of a week-long SARU coaching symposium in Stellenbosch on Monday.
SARU's High Performance (HP) Department recently completed development of a new computer programme called 'Footprint', which will assist in building a comprehensive player database and maintaining vital information and statistics on players as they progress through the ranks.
In addition, technical analysis software, called 'Stratus', also developed by SARU, will work hand-in-hand with 'Footprint' to monitor on-field performance. A number of provinces across South Africa have already started using these systems for 2014.
Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU, said the introduction of the software and the holding of the symposium were the latest stages in a long-term SARU strategy to raise the bar of high performance standards in South African rugby. Last year saw the first phase with the appointment and the full roll-out of SARU's HP Mobi-Unit, which deployed expert specialist coaches across a broad range of national and provincial teams.
"The development of the software and the data and analysis we expect to generate from it were planned from the moment Rassie Erasmus was appointed as our HP General Manager," said Roux.
"Rassie established the department with a clear remit to generate new thinking within South African rugby and significantly improve the standards of support and analysis SARU provides to our national teams and provincial unions.
"We have already felt the benefits across all our national teams and we believe that the principles behind the symposium and the work that is being done between our HP department and provincial unions will be of enormous benefit to all our players and coaches in due course."
Erasmus previewed 'Footprint' and 'Stratus' on the opening day of the symposium for representatives of all SARU's national teams as well as a number of provincial unions.
The aim of the symposium, the first of its kind in South Africa, is to share ideas between coaches from junior provincial to Springbok level, with seminars planned by the three Springbok assistant coaches, Johann van Graan, Ricardo Loubscher and John McFarland, as well as national coaching consultants Pieter de Villiers, Louis Koen and Chean Roux.
"We are here to assist the provinces with the ultimate goal of improving the game across the board in South Africa," said Erasmus.
"One good outcome would be to create a national coaching blueprint but we don't want to prescribe to teams how they should play. Our hope though is that by establishing a singular way of coaching, especially when it comes to the very technical areas of the game, everyone will benefit.
"All of our national and Academy coaches, as well as those involved in our high performance age-group programmes, have bought into this and will be implementing our blueprint across the board.
"From the High Performance Department's side, in conjunction with the Springbok coaches, we've been working very hard to establish was of assisting all our main stakeholders, such as the SARU Academies and the provinces, to ensure we improve at all levels of rugby.
"The Springbok coaches and members of SARU's Mobi-Unit are available to help wherever they can and have already been travelling around the country to work with the provinces.
"By introducing things such as 'Stratus' and 'Footprint', we hope to capture players much earlier, making it easier to see their progress and determine areas of their play which need attention. Hopefully this will lead to a lower drop-out rate of talented players between age-group and senior level.
"We need to start producing Springboks from all levels of the game, doing things the South African way, and to get there we need to work together. It is very encouraging to see buy-in we have had from provinces and, in the end, everyone will benefit."