Inside The Super Rugby Camp: Analysing Performance Is Key

Rugby is a stressful sport. Thursday is used to focus and control that stress about the next game

Words by Thomas Okes | Photographs by Paul Samuels |

Rugby is a complex mix of brawn and brainpower. On the field, with bodies being thrown around and a crowd of thousands baying for blood, pro rugby players are some of the most stressed-out people in the world – and as the Bulls’ team psychologist Dr Jannie Botha explains, under-pressure people make decisions from deep within their subconscious mind. Intellectual processing power is less critical, for example, in the middle of a brutal tackle, than sheer instinct – and as much as they may preach the virtues of intelligence on the field, mental coaches are mainly involved in the art of coaching confidence.

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The challenge lies in ensuring each player understands exactly where he needs to improve, and what he needs to do to get there in time. The key to ensuring a player understands exactly what he needs to do: video, and lots of it. Stephan du Toit explains that since Saturday, the team’s technical analyst has had very little sleep, preparing hours of detailed footage designed to give coaches and players the feedback they need.

This analysis serves a dual purpose: to highlight a team’s errors and shortcomings from the previous game, and educate a player on the next one. “The video analysis system allows for self-assessment of individual and team efforts,” he says. “We will look at what the opposition will offer on attack and defence, in their kicking game and at set pieces, and we will assess how we need to adapt our own game too.”

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Tech only goes so far, however: individual issues will need to be thrashed out one-on-one, between a player and his coach. “The technology is out there, and is very helpful – but the relationship and level of honest, clear communication between a player and coach is still vital.”

Putter says having a specific plan is crucial for better (and faster) learning, and that players often benefit from being allowed to focus on as short a list of outcomes as possible. “A specific goal for the week, and for the next match, is essential to prevent a player from falling into the trap of monotonous training without energy,” he says. “Usually, what will help is a short conversation with a trusted confidant, such as a mentor, wife, or coach – sharing his concerns will help him pare down his thoughts to clear and concise goals.

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But what’s important here is that these targets need to be focused on effort, technique and character – never on outcome. Outcome goals (such as, we need to win this match, or score a certain number of points) will only add emotional pressure just when you need it the least.”

Click on each link for a detailed description of what the Super Rugby athletes do to recover and prepare mentally and physically, on each day of the week.

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