Cape Town – Winning two consecutive IRB Sevens World Series events – and beating the All Blacks Sevens in both finals – wasn’t just a fluke by the Springbok Sevens side.
The Blitzbokke’s dramatic triumph in Las Vegas on Sunday night was partly due to a new coaching analysis system implemented by the South African Rugby Union’s High Performance division, which is led by former Springbok loose forward and ex-Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus.
The Footprint system allows Saru to capture all rugby-related queries and information of all players who are in national team squads from Under-16 to the Springboks. It allows coaches to interact with players on all aspects of analysis, which would make an assessment of a player’s ability more thorough than ever.
The Sevens Boks also utilise the system, and Erasmus believes that it played some role in helping them to win their last two tournaments in Vegas and Port Elizabeth. “The Footprint system itself will only benefit us in a few years, but the current Boks are rated there and the Sevens guys too. We are already seeing the benefits of that,” Erasmus said yesterday on the sidelines of the Saru Coaching Symposium at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.
“I think it’s the combination of Marius (Schoeman, SA Sevens Academy coach) and Neil (Powell, Bok Sevens coach) being part of the Academy, and those players coming through there. Also a bit of luck. They all use the Footprint system. It’s not all that, as the coaching and performances have been good, but this system helps to measure things for them.”
The Bok Sevens defended courageously, in particular Branco du Preez, and scored two converted tries to beat New Zealand 14-7, with youngster Werner Kok recording the winning try. Coach Powell was delighted that his team managed to defend their Vegas title and take the series lead by a single point over New Zealand.
“Unbelievable feeling, but well deserved for the players,” Powell told AFP. “They work hard back home and it is all credit to them. The guts, the commitment, it is unbelievable.
“It was very intense and what a gutsy performance that was from the guys. They all played for each other. There is still a long way to go to keep us at the top.”
The symposium saw a number of coaches from across the junior provincial, Varsity Cup and other national levels discuss issues affecting the game and also learning about how the Springbok management operate. Bok assistant coaches Johann van Graan and Ricardo Loubscher, as well as specialist coaches John McFarland, Pieter de Villiers and Chean Roux will be making presentations over the next few days.
Former Bok flyhalf Butch James, the backline coach of Varsity Shield side UKZN Impi, as well as Boland coach Abe Davids, Saru Academy coaches Stanley Raubenheimer (Boland) and Deon Davids (SWD) and ex-Bok prop Lawrence Sephaka were among those present.
Erasmus believes that the symposium was geared towards sharing ideas and that the Footprint system would ensure that top players are identified and offered contracts. He is hopeful that more than just the current two provinces would also utilise the system, which would see SA rugby getting closer to the New Zealand way of working together for the greater good of the game in this country.
“You will get cases where coaches like certain players, but over time, the data will show the trend,” Erasmus said. “You sometimes get coaches who don’t select a player for a certain thing, like defence, but what about defence? A guy being too small, how does it impact on his game?
“We also want to identify our best players. We are still a bit in the mould in South Africa where the guy who scores the most tries and is the biggest, is the best. And that’s not necessarily the case if you put in the effort to understand everything of a player.”