By Kimball Kjar
You’ve heard the phrase that “it’s all in the details.”
With the professionalism of rugby in the mid-90’s the chance to focus on the details of the game has greatly increased and with it the game has similarly progressed.
Some profess that a cumulative of 10,000 hours working on a skill gives a person the necessary qualification to be a “professional” (See The Talent Code) whether an artist, a writer, a doctor, the requisite hours must be put into for someone to arrive at the level of a “professional.”
Training, study, practice and review all add up to a person’s level of expertise in their chosen area of profession.
For some it’s more natural and easily understood and some we classify them as prodigies. Others require more effort and work, but either way, all must master the details.
Like a house, without the details the bigger items have little or no foundation upon which to rest.
There is nothing little or of little importance when everything big rests on it.
A team that understands this principle in my opinion is also the surprise of the Super Rugby this season: the Waikato Chiefs.
With the addition of Sonny Bill Williams and the emergence of Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow along with the experience Richard Kahui head coach Dave Rennie & super assistant Wayne Smith the Chiefs lead the Super Rugby competition at the mid-way point of the season.
With only one loss on the season, that came at the hands of the Highlanders in the first game of the season, the Chiefs have rattled off seven straight wins.
And with all of the success that the Chiefs have seen this season its not been some sort of magic potion, rather its been their attention to detail that has made the difference.
Aside from carrying high possession and field position percentages the Chiefs have the leading try-scorer in the competition in the form of Tongan prop Sona Taumalolo.
Who?! Yes, a prop is tied for the try-scoring lead in Super Rugby. What does this have to do with the details?
A review of Taumalolo’s tries show three details that make him one of the top players in Super Rugby this season:
Taumalolo’s body position in contact is very strong. The majority of his tries have been scored from short range, but they’ve been done with more than one person in his way.
His leg drive, core strength, ball position, among other skills are keys to why he’s been so successful physically when challenging for the tryline.
Taumalolo’s set piece skills are about as solid as they come in the professional ranks. Not only does the prop scrummage well, but his lineout lifting, mauling and mobility make him a notable asset for the Chiefs at the set piece.
Being skilled in these areas allow his team the ability to move the ball closer to the tryline and eventually offer Taumalolo his opportunity to impact the score board from his wheel house field position.
Again, though not directly related to his scoring prowess, Taumalolo’s set piece abilities are details that build towards the bigger picture of his and his team’s performance.
Lastly, Sona’s decision-making is savvy. The big man knows what his strengths are and where he can make the most impact. With an attacking pattern that relies on the forwards heavily when inside the opponent’s half Taumalolo measure’s his carries, support runs and set piece skills in context of the team’s greater goals.
The “take-away” from this is that players and coaches both need to understand that we all need to work towards the details in our preparation and performances.
I will guarantee that Taumalolo and other top performers like him don’t just show up on game-day and expect to perform at a high level.
I will similarly guarantee that Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith don’t just walk around the pitch and wonder where the balls are at training.
Top players and coaches seek detailed performances by consistent training and planning that leads to “professionalism.”
As mentioned earlier, for some it is easier than others, but in the end all have to work and all have to pay the price only they know they should and can pay.
Be professional by being detailed. Good luck!
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