OLLIE KEOHANE says a pre-season spent gaining mass and strength can help prepare a player for open-division schoolboy rugby.
My introduction to U19 rugby this season was me, a 16-year-old lock/flank weighing 82kg, having to go to head to head in a rucking drill with my team’s outside centre, who conservatively weighs 90kg.
After spending a week trying to recover from being rucked by a backline player (a good 8kg heavier than me), I got a good working over in the lineouts from our 115kg prop.
It wasn’t necessarily a brutal welcome to open division but it made for a painful session. My body took a beating and I felt it the rest of the school week.
The point I’m getting at is that U19 rugby is physically a different beast to U16. The pace of the game and the skills on display is much the same as at U16, however the intensity and physicality is on another level.
The only way to truly prepare oneself for the induction to open-division rugby is through a pre-season spent gaining mass and strength. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. There are many misconceptions and myths among schoolboys regarding the gain of weight, size and strength; this leads to the use of the wrong supplementation, injuries at the gym because guys try to push heavy weights with bad form and a general ineffectiveness in achieving a good level of conditioning.
Luckily for me, my school, SACS, has a partnership with 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok conditioning coach Steve Macintyre, whose conditioning consultancy provides a service to several schools and clubs in the Western Cape.
My first experience with Steve and his team was at the end of 2014 when preparing for the U16 season. The results were obvious for every player in the squad, many of whom had never been on a structured pre-season gym programme.
At the end of each rugby season, Steve and his team of specialists work out specific gym routines for the squads, which are then adapted to specific needs particular to the player and also the position played.
A nutritionist is then bought in to advise the boys on how they should be eating and more importantly why they should be eating specific food groups, and also when they should be eating.
The key factor in a pre-season as mentioned is that the exercises and eating plans are specifically focused on bettering the player’s rugby ability, taking into account his position.
From personal experience, the players flourishing in the 1st XV are the ones who made full use of their pre-season. Schoolboy rugby these days, especially at U19 level, is not a seasonal sport; the season is the product of hours spent in the gym in the off-season. But for there to be a product, the gym work needs to be taken seriously and done right.
I singled out this one aspect because many of my mates and I spent hours before Steve Mac’s introduction researching supplementation and nutrition and it was very confusing if one hadn’t been exposed to the guidance and advice of specialists.
It is very easy to be taking the wrong supplementation or to be using random coaching gym programmes off the Net, especially when one’s body is still in such a developmental stage.
What I hope to be able to do is provide a platform of information to any questions from players in the country. SARugbymag.co.za has access to experts in all fields and I’ll be the messenger between those experts and back to you.
This is the first dedicated high-schools rugby site in South Africa and I’m fortunate to be able to tap into all the resources, in terms of information, at SARugbymag.co.za and the print monthly, SA Rugby magazine.
Please email me any questions, any great stories and anything that is good or inspiring from within your schools rugby set-up ([email protected]).
I’ll be on SARugbymag’s Instagram and Twitter accounts too, so you can interact with me and hopefully we’ll be able to build the profile of your school’s season and also write about players and the things that contribute to your school’s rugby success.
All the best to everyone this weekend and congratulations to Paarl Boys’ High on a brilliant win against Grey College.
SACS has played Paarl Gymnasium away this season, but we still have the biggest challenge of hosting the country’s No 1 team at Newlands.