PIMP YOUR RUGBY SKILLSKeen to polish your rugby skills? No matter what your level, Blitzbok speedster Seabelo Senatla shows you how
Whether for beach rugga, touch rugby or full contact, Sevens legend Seabelo Senatla shares his top five tips to boost your game.
Even the best can get better is a mantra which Blitzbok Senatla is all too aware of.
The man might be the ninth-highest all-time try-scorer in the World Rugby Sevens Series (with 66 tries last season alone) but Senatla knows that only continuous improvement keeps a player ahead of the pack.
“I’m happy with where my defence is at the moment,” says Senatla, after finishing 10th on the ‘most tackles’ list for the 2015-16 season. “But going into 15-man rugby, I need to polish up on my aerial skills, and on my field positioning so that I’m in the right place at the right time.
“But the basic skills of catching and passing are the basis of the game. It’s easy to forget that and turn to work in the gym or work on speed stuff. But to be able to score a try, you have to have ball in hand…sadly! Everyone should work more on their basic skills.”
Hear that, Springboks? Senatla’s tips for pimping your summer rugby skills apply to everyone:
1 Play more touch
Touch rugby is top of Senatla’s list when it comes to honing all-round rugby skills. “Touchies is really fun to play, and without realising it, you’re working a lot of stuff,” he says. “You’re working your vision, you’re working your steps, you’re working your passing skills. Play with as many players as you want in any sized space you want. Once you get touched, it’s a turnover. Touchies isn’t intense so you can play around and have fun with mates, but you’re improving as you go.”
2 It’s the size of the fight in the dog…
At 1.77m and 83kg, Senatla is no-one’s idea of a big unit, but when it comes to defence, the guy’s a terrier. “Defence all begins with heart,” he says. “If you don’t have heart, as a smaller guy, you’re always going to be trampled on. I believe tackling is more attitude than technique. Technique is important, but my attitude is literally that no-one is going to score on my side of the field. It’s all about bringing the guy down, whichever way you can.”
3 Hit the spot
To practice your passing, set up a tackle bag (or any other object that stands roughly as tall as a man) at a distance that suits the strength of your pass. Mark the spot that you want to hit, and aim to do just that, but while running.
“Passing while standing still is pretty easy,” says Senatla, “but it’s never going to happen like that in a game. Vary the distance between you and the mark, and try to hit that spot all the time. Basic skills are the most important…we need to practice catching and passing all the time.”
4 Go high
To improve your aerial skills, you need a couple of mates helping you out. First, you need someone to chuck up a ball for you to catch. Then, you need a second guy using a tackle shield (or other soft, bulky object) to impede your jump. This isn’t about fielding up-and-unders with your feet planted solidly on the ground; it’s about perfecting your aerial technique under pressure in the jump zone.
“The aim is to catch the ball above the tackle shield,” explains Senatla. “It’s about getting your timing right considering the throw, how the ball is travelling, and catching the ball at the highest point of your jump. Make sure you get in that space before the defender gets in that space. The guy carrying the shield is imitating a player coming in from the side and you have to get into the space before he does otherwise the ball is going to bounce off the shield before you can catch it.”
5 Get up to speed
“Whenever I’m running at top speed or dodging tacklers, I feel like I’m in my element,” says Senatla. “I feel like this is my purpose, this is what I was born to do. It’s quite awesome. It does feel unreal for a moment.” The thing is, he admits, “you might be born with speed, but it’s still something you have to work on.”
To improve your agility and speed, here’s a deceptively simple drill: set up four cones in a square, then sprint around them while tracing a figure-of-eight. “Making those fast turns is a very good way to improve your agility,” says Senatla. “It’s advisable to be carrying a ball all the time, in two hands even. Doing it without the ball isn’t going to help you much because in a game you need to be carrying the ball!”