by Kimball Kjar
The onset of professionalism in rugby has progressed the game far beyond what I believe most people imagined it could a little less than two decades ago.
With professionalism came a player’s and a team’s chance for increased skills specialization.
Over the years I’ve been impressed with coaches and their ability to develop specialized skills from their players that will increase positive outcomes in the game of rugby.
One such skill I believe was what I called the “Sonny Bill Williams” pass - The ‘SBW’ & Skill Development.
Another specialized skill that has increased a player’s ability to make such a pass is an oft overlooked skill that we call the fend or here in America, the stiff-arm.
Last summer I had the chance to interact with Springboks 7’s head coach Paul Treu.
Treu was and continues to be an innovator with regards to the 7’s game and his program was one of the first to contract their 7’s players on a full-time and professional basis.
In watching the “Blitzbokke” train I was to see how consistently Treu has his players train the fend and other specialized skills in order to increase their odds at being able to break down opposition’s defenses.
The purpose of the fend is simple: create space between you and the defender.
But the outcome is varied and can be separated into three outcomes:
All three outcomes of the fend allow the attacking team and player to break down the defense in some form or another.
So what makes a good fend possible? As I see it, the fend comes down to leverage.
Here’s how I coach the fend in way that I believe gives the attacker the greatest success at leverage or control in contact using 5 easy to remember and specialized steps:
You can continue to discuss body position and ball presentation assuming a player ends up getting tackled and going to ground, but the above steps offer the attacker the greatest likelihood of one of the formerly mentioned three outcomes that come by using the fend.
Professionalism in rugby led to greater specialization within the sport. But just because you’re not a professional doesn’t mean you can’t train with similar specialization. Specialization in skill development is key if we’re to move the game forward in America or anywhere else in the world at every level.
The Fend Specialization: Position. Possession. Evasion. Separation. Acceleration.
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