By Deputy Editor Alan Pearey
ONE OF the many strands to Save Your Season (SYS) is performance analysis. This year’s SYS winners, Kettering, have long watched DVDs of matches, and they once used their acquired knowledge to put the shackles on Cleckheaton powerhouse John Dudley in a play-off match. But the depth of analysis provided by Opta Sports has caused the East Midlands club to re-evaluate their work in this area.
“In the past couple of months we’ve put more emphasis on analysis, bringing it more into training sessions,” says director of rugby Doug Bridgeman. “The players now have a DVD to take away and in our Tuesday session we spend half an hour on analysis, looking at parts of the game. Either at our last game or, more usually, at the last time we played the upcoming opposition.”
The advantages of such homework can pay handsome dividends on match day. When the Blues played Market Bosworth recently, they had already identified their opponents’ tendency not to compete at the breakdown, the players instead fanning out and leaving a hole at the back of the ruck. Kettering duly went pick-and-go down the middle and scored a try after 90 seconds. When Market Bosworth twigged what Kettering were doing and committed more players to the ruck, the Blues exploited the new-found space out wide.
Analysis of Kettering’s own performance in that 45-0 win suggests that lessons learnt from SYS – a performance makeover using the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and Aviva Premiership clubs – are taking effect. In particular, the areas of discipline, lineout efficiency and shared workload showed that massive strides have been made since the club began SYS midway through the season.
The return of key players at eight, nine and 12 after injury has played a significant part, so too the increased availability of outside back Alex Smit, part of the Bedford Blues academy. But much of the progress made can be attributable to a SYS programme that has included visits to Leicester and Northampton for advice on skills and strength & conditioning.
The advice of the professionals isn’t just for Kettering’s benefit – you can see a range of skills and exercise videos on the website saveyourseason.co.uk. From scrum technique with Test props Marcos Ayerza and Soane Tonga’uiha to executing overlaps with the Saracens and England backs, you’ll find a heap of tips to help you improve your game.