Rugby 101 | A quick guide to understanding the rules of rugby sevens

The game is played by 7 players on each side.

Games take place between two teams for a total of 7 minutes each way, with a 1 minute half time break.

The scoring system: 5 points for a try, 2 for a conversion and 3 for both penalties and drop goals

The difference is that all conversions must be taken within 40 seconds of the try being scored and must be taken as a drop goal rather than a place kick

The scoring team kicks off to the opposition

A player receiving a yellow card is sent to the sin bin for a 2 minute interval (counted as time in play, not real time) rather than 10 minutes

A penalty will result in a scrum. Scrummaging takes place between 3 forwards. These forward bind together and interlock their heads. The scrum half feeds the ball into the channel between them and retrieves the ball from the back of the scrum.

If the ball goes out of bounds a lineout occurs. Lineouts take place between two (sometimes 3) players, with a player throwing the ball back in to play.

Each team is only allowed 5 reserves per game, and can only make 3 changes during the course of the game

These rule changes are brought in to keep the game fast moving and free flowing, which is considered the aim of sevens rugby.


Ramblings of a rugby mom.

Have you ever noticed how a rugby mom is seen as just another person next to the field? Somebody who is there to be the taxi driver for the kids to rugby and back. Somebody who actually has no opinion……. yeah right!

Rugby has always been seen as a man’s sport. Something the boys can bond over and discuss….. a sport where the male spectators know more than the ref, the coach and sometimes even the players.


Let’s take school rugby trials as an example. The moms are expected to sit quietly and just watch the trials while silently saying  prayers that their sons will make the A team and then adding an extra prayer that their precious little angels will not get hurt during the season.

Now the dads on the other hand are running up and down the field….. screaming instructions. Some will actually go as far as telling the coaches who to take off the field so their own kids can be put on the field…… even if it is not a position their kids normally plays!!!! Why do dads have the right to interfere? Let me explain…… they have something we don’t…… testosterone. Yip….. they are male.



Then comes those dreaded injuries during matches. Ever noticed how it is ok for the dads to run onto the field? Have you as a mom tried it? The fastest recovery time a player has ever displayed was when his mother ran onto the field. It is not acceptable to be seen as a mommy’s boy. They would rather suffer in pain than let their mothers come near them!

So where do we as mothers fit in? Do we keep quiet and act dumb about rugby? Do we just stay behind the scenes and make sure our angels are wearing the gum guards and shoulder pads? Are we just the ones that wash those stinky jerseys after the matches….. getting the grass and mud stains out of their shorts?

If you have the answer on how to penetrate this male dominated area, please let me know. Let’s unite as rugby moms………






Training tips

Hi Coach,

The first weekend of the Six Nations proved how hard it is to break down defences. Usually the defenders start narrow and then spread across. This means that they are squeezed together from the side of the ruck and then, as the ball gets passed wider and wider, they shift out.

One way to trouble this sort of defence is to employ the cross kick which rapidly sends the ball wide to where there may be only one or two defenders.

Top tip

Make sure there’s a low trajectory from the kick, so the defenders have less chance to get under the ball. Today I have a drill for you that works on precision when kicking, so that when it comes to game time, your players can aim closer to the touchline.

Yours in rugby,
Dan Cottrell,
Head Coach, Better Rugby Coaching

Precision kicks closer to the touchline

By Dan Cottrell

Dealing with a kick that stops 5m from the goal and touchline is a nightmare for the covering back three players, especially when there is a good follow-up from the kicking team.

Being able to consistently kick the ball into this area demands a high degree of skill and precision.

Set up

A 25m x 30m box, several balls, cones.

What you get your players to do…

Use only your backs for this specialist exercise. Split the group into pairs: A kicker and a retriever, with one ball.

The objective is to kick the ball and get it to stop in the 5m square in the corners.


The initial activity works on the players coming to terms with what type of kick to use and getting a feel for it.
The kicker aims for the corner coned-off target area. The retriever gathers the ball and then kicks to the target area at the other end. K=kicker, R=retriever

Kickers are fed the ball and immediately kick it as they would in a game. The retriever waits outside the target area and recovers the ball. He then kicks for the 5m target zone at the other end with the previous kicker now the retriever. Players can kick the ball any way they want.


Different forms of kick: Spiral, ball rotating backwards or ball rotating forward.

A consistency to their accuracy and more importantly the weight of kick.

The ball is caught and kicked immediately to bring a little pressure to the practice.

Players regain the ball quickly and repeat the exercise.


Increase the size of the practice area to 30m x 40m.

Set up three attackers and make two passes to the outside player (following a pass from a feeder) who kicks for the corner area.


Develop the activity where passes are made to the wide player who kicks to the corner.

Develop this into a match-like 6v6 activity where any player can kick for the corner.


A 6v6 match-like scenario. The attacking team uses a kick to the corner once in every three attacks.


The first receiver can be the main kicker who aims for the corners, however, it can work much better if it’s a later kick from one of the centres, because the defensive winger will have started to move forward.

How to stop crowding at the ruck

A common issue for rugby coaches is dealing with crowding at the ruck. Use this game to get your players spreading out!

Set up

Run the game with three “positions”:

Wingers – self explanatory.
Nutters – basically think of them as flankers. Their job is to get the ball and, at first, you can set it so only the nutters are allowed into the rucks.
Tacklers or Killers – everyone else.

How to play

Only wingers can score and, only in the corners (that is, the ball has to go wide).

Only nutters can contest a ruck (be careful though, you need to keep it so the nearest player is happy to quickly pick up a ball and pass it – different from “contesting”).

The most important position is killers. They basically play zone defence across the pitch (which is where training in channels can help).

They are responsible for killing (tackling) anyone who comes into their zone and then getting back into the zone defence.

It may take a while for them to get it, but once they start to understand what nutters do you can also use it as a reward – that is, if you do your job as a killer well you can play as a nutter for a while.

So, play where only wingers can score on the wing, limit rucking to nutters only, and switch the positions regularly and after about three months you’ll start to get there!

If you have a game this Sunday, try going with the three positions and saying only nutters can ruck. If you make it a real “honour” to be the nutters, the kids will self-regulate and the nutters will ensure the killers and wingers stick to their jobs.

Scorpion stretch for flexibility

From Training Young Athletes

Each stretch to be performed for 30 seconds each side every day (after a warm-up).

Tell players to stretch the muscles and joint(s) to the point at which mild discomfort sets in (but not beyond). Breathe in and then out slowly as they relax into the stretch.

The scorpion

Tell your players to…

Lie on their front with both arms outstretched to their sides, hands level with shoulders, legs straight.
Tilt their head to the right, to look at their right hand then move right foot over their bum so that it touches their left hand.
Point their knee up to the ceiling.
Repeat on the other side. (NB: If they can’t reach their opposite hand, just go as far as they can, but look to progress.)

Standing back-peel

Tell your players to…

Stand with their back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart and about 20cm away from the base of the wall.
Place their chin on their chest, hands on thighs, and slowly bend forward from top the of their spine.
Imagine that each vertebra is leaving the wall one by one. Try to keep the small of their back on the wall for as long as possible.
Stop when they feel mild discomfort in the hamstrings or lower back. Hold that position.
Return by trying to put the vertebrae back on the wall one by one in reverse.


Judgement vs. impact at the ruck

Winning rucks is not just about good technique, the key is to also know where to enter the ruck and what action is required. The arriving player has to scan the situation, weigh up the options and then take the right action.

The session

What you tell your players this session is about…

Learning to make quick decisions at the ruck.
Improving body positions and angles when arriving at the ruck.

What you tell your players to do…

Look at the situation and decide whether you are going to drive through, protect or stay out.
If you are going to enter the ruck, go through the “gate”, not in at the side, to make a real difference.

What you get your players to do…

In the middle of a 7m square, set out four cones in the shape of a rectangle – three strides wide, by two deep. The cones represent the tackle “gate” and players cannot enter from the sides of this box.

Place a ball in the middle of the cone box. Split the players into teams of four and two and put them outside the square.

When you shout “GO”, both teams enter the square and try to win the ball. The team with four players has to work out how many players they want to commit to the ruck.



Developing the session

The training session can be developed as follows…

Add players to both teams.
Put two players from each team in the square and an equal numbers of attackers and defenders outside the square (and perhaps make the square bigger).
Develop second phase attacks.

A game situation

The session can be developed further by playing a 10 v 10 game (depending on how many players you have) on half a pitch. Use passive five man scrums, allow kicking, and if the ball goes into touch have a contested two man lineout. For penalty offences, have a free kick with the opposition standing 5m back.

Otherwise, normal rugby laws apply except you judge whether players are making a difference at the ruck. Blow the whistle and question players if necessary. Have any spare players shout judgements from the sidelines. Change the teams to involve all players.



By Dan Cottrell

2016 Super Rugby season

The 2016 Super Rugby season will be the 21st season of Super Rugby and the first season featuring an expanded 18-team format. It will also be the first season that teams outside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will feature, with a team from Argentina and another team from Japan. The round-robin games will take place every weekend from 26 February to 16 July 2016 (with a break for international matches during June), followed by the finals series at the end of July and culminating in the final on 6 August.


Competition format

The 18 teams will be grouped geographically. There are two regional groups, each consisting of two conferences: the Australasian Group, with five teams in the Australian Conference and five teams in the New Zealand Conference and the South African Group, with six South African teams, one Argentinean team and one Japanese team split into a four-team Africa 1 Conference a four-team Africa 2 Conference.

In the group stages, there will be 17 rounds of matches, where each team will play 15 matches and have two rounds of byes for a total of 135 matches.

Teams will play six intra-conference matches; in the four-team African Conferences, each team will play the other three teams in their conference home and away, while in the five-team Australasian Conferences, each team will play two teams home and away and will play once against the other two teams (one at home and one away). The other nine matches will be a single round of matches against each team in the other conference in their group, as well as against each team from one of the conferences in the other group. For 2016, the teams in Africa 1 will play the teams in the Australian Conference, while the teams in Africa 2 will play the teams in the New Zealand Conference.

The top team in each of the four conferences will automatically qualify to the Quarter Finals. The next top three teams in the Australasian Group and the next top team in the South African group will also qualify to the Quarter Finals as wildcards. The conference winners will be seeded #1 to #4 for the Quarter Finals, in order of log points gained during the group stages, while the wildcards will be seeded as #5 to #8 in order of log points gained during the group stages.

In the Quarter Finals, the conference winners will host the first round of the finals, with the highest-seeded conference winner hosting the fourth-seeded wildcard entry, the second-seeded conference winner hosting the third-seeded wildcard entry, the third-seeded conference winner hosting the second-seeded wildcard entry and the fourth-seeded conference winner hosting the top-seed wildcard entry.

The Quarter Final winners will progress to the Semi-Finals, where the highest seed to reach the Semi-Finals will host the lowest seed and the second-seeded semi-finalist will host the third-seeded team.

The winners of the Semi-Finals will progress to the Final, at the venue of the highest-seeded team.


*Times,dates and venues subject to change.

Day & Date Match Home Venue
Friday 26 February Blues v Highlanders Eden Park, Auckland
Friday 26 February Brumbies v Hurricanes GIO Stadium, Canberra
Friday 26 February Cheetahs v Argentina Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 27 February Japan v Lions Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday 27 February Crusaders v Chiefs AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday 27 February Waratahs v Reds Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday 27 February Force v Rebels nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday 27 February Kings v Sharks Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 27 February Stormers v Bulls DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Friday 4 March Crusaders v Blues AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Friday 4 March Brumbies v Waratahs GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday 5 March Chiefs v Lions TBC
Saturday 5 March Highlanders v Hurricanes TBC
Saturday 5 March Reds v Force Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday 5 March Bulls v Rebels Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 5 March Cheetahs v Stormers Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 5 March Sharks v Argentina Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Friday 11 March Blues v Hurricanes Eden Park, Auckland
Friday 11 March Force v Brumbies nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday 12 March Highlanders v Lions TBC
Saturday 12 March Rebels v Reds AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday 12 March Japan v Cheetahs Singapore National Stadium, Singapore
Saturday 12 March Kings v Chiefs Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 12 March Stormers v Sharks DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Friday 18 March Hurricanes v Force TBC
Friday 18 March Waratahs v Highlanders Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Friday 18 March Bulls v Sharks Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 19 March Japan v Rebels Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday 19 March Crusaders v Kings AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday 19 March Reds v Blues Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday 19 March Lions v Cheetahs Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 19 March Stormers v Brumbies DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Saturday 19 March Argentina v Chiefs TBC
ROUND 5 (Easter)
Friday 25 March Hurricanes v Kings TBC
Saturday 26 March Chiefs v Force TBC
Saturday 26 March Rebels v Highlanders AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday 26 March Japan v Bulls Singapore National Stadium, Singapore
Saturday 26 March Cheetahs v Brumbies Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 26 March Sharks v Crusaders Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Saturday 26 March Argentina v Stormers TBC
Sunday 27 March Reds v Waratahs Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
ROUND 6 (Daylight savings ends Australia and New Zealand)
Friday 1 April Highlanders v Force TBC
Friday 1 April Lions v Crusaders Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 2 April Blues v Argentina QBE Stadium, North Harbour
Saturday 2 April Brumbies v Chiefs GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday 2 April Kings v Japan Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 2 April Bulls v Cheetahs Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Sunday 3 April Waratahs v Rebels Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Friday 8 April Chiefs v Blues TBC
Friday 8 April Force v Crusaders nib Stadium, Perth
Friday 8 April Stormers v Japan DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Saturday 9 April Hurricanes v Argentina TBC
Saturday 9 April Reds v Highlanders Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday 9 April Sharks v Lions Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Saturday 9 April Kings v Bulls Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Friday 15 April Crusaders v Argentina AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Friday 15 April Rebels v Hurricanes AAMI Park, Melbourne
Friday 15 April Cheetahs v Japan Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 16 April Blues v Sharks Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday 16 April Waratahs v Brumbies Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday 16 April Bulls v Reds Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 16 April Lions v Stormers Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
ROUND 9 (Anzac Day Weekend)
Friday 22 April Highlanders v Sharks TBC
Friday 22 April Rebels v Cheetahs AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday 23 April Japan v Argentina Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday 23 April Hurricanes v Chiefs TBC
Saturday 23 April Force v Waratahs nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday 23 April Stormers v Reds DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Saturday 23 April Kings v Lions Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Sunday 24 April Brumbies v Crusaders GIO Stadium, Canberra
Friday 29 April Chiefs v Sharks TBC
Friday 29 April Force v Bulls nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday 30 April Highlanders v Brumbies TBC
Saturday 30 April Blues v Rebels Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday 30 April Reds v Cheetahs Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday 30 April Lions v Hurricanes Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 30 April Stormers v Waratahs DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Saturday 30 April Argentina v Kings TBC
Friday 6 May Crusaders v Reds AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Friday 6 May Brumbies v Bulls GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday 7 May Japan v Force Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday 7 May Chiefs v Highlanders TBC
Saturday 7 May Waratahs v Cheetahs Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday 7 May Sharks v Hurricanes Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Saturday 7 May Kings v Blues Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Friday 13 May Highlanders v Crusaders TBC
Friday 13 May Rebels v Brumbies AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday 14 May Hurricanes v Reds TBC
Saturday 14 May Waratahs v Bulls Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday 14 May Japan v Stormers Singapore National Stadium, Singapore
Saturday 14 May Cheetahs v Kings Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 14 May Lions v Blues Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 14 May Argentina v Sharks TBC
Friday 20 May Crusaders v Waratahs AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday 21 May Reds v Japan Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday 21 May Chiefs v Rebels TBC
Saturday 21 May Force v Blues nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday 21 May Lions v Argentina Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 21 May Sharks v Kings Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Saturday 21 May Bulls v Stormers Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Friday 27 May Hurricanes v Highlanders TBC
Friday 27 May Waratahs v Chiefs Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Friday 27 May Kings v Argentina Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 28 May Blues v Crusaders Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday 28 May Brumbies v Japan GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday 28 May Stormers v Cheetahs DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Saturday 28 May Bulls v Lions Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Sunday 29 May Rebels v Force AAMI Park, Melbourne
Friday 1 July Chiefs v Crusaders TBC
Friday 1 July Brumbies v Reds GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday 2 July Japan v Waratahs Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday 2 July Hurricanes v Blues TBC
Saturday 2 July Rebels v Stormers AAMI Park, Melbourne
Saturday 2 July Cheetahs v Force Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 2 July Kings v Highlanders Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Saturday 2 July Lions v Sharks Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 2 July Argentina v Bulls TBC
Friday 8 July Blues v Brumbies Eden Park, Auckland
Friday 8 July Reds v Chiefs Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Friday 8 July Lions v Kings Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Saturday 9 July Crusaders v Rebels AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday 9 July Waratahs v Hurricanes Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Saturday 9 July Force v Stormers nib Stadium, Perth
Saturday 9 July Bulls v Japan Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Saturday 9 July Sharks v Cheetahs Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Saturday 9 July Argentina v Highlanders TBC
Friday 15 July Blues v Waratahs Eden Park, Auckland
Friday 15 July Reds v Rebels Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Friday 15 July Sharks v Japan Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Durban
Saturday 16 July Crusaders v Hurricanes AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Saturday 16 July Highlanders v Chiefs TBC
Saturday 16 July Brumbies v Force GIO Stadium, Canberra
Saturday 16 July Stormers v Kings DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Saturday 16 July Cheetahs v Bulls Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Saturday 16 July Argentina v Lions TBC
Super Rugby Qualifiers
Friday 22 July
Friday 22 July
Saturday 23 July
Saturday 23 July
Super Rugby Semi Finals
Friday 29 July
Saturday 30 July
Super Rugby Final
Saturday 6 August

How do you know if your son is taking anabolic steroids?

The newspapers are confirming what most of us already know: more and more adolescent schoolboys are taking powerful anabolic steroids. And they’re not only taking them to enhance their sports performance but also “to look good.” So as a parent, how would you spot if your son is taking these dangerous drugs?

Steroid use can affect all aspects of your child’s health and well-being as well as affect the family as a whole. Here are some of the signs that you should be on the lookout for in the early stages of steroid use. We have not included some of the more serious side effects that may arise in long term use as we hope that adolescents have not yet reached this stage. It should also be borne in mind that some of these signs will be displayed as part of the normal maturing process of teenagers as the effect of testosterone and anabolic steroids are very similar.

Physical Signs:

· Puffiness/swelling of the neck region in particular, caused by increased water retention

· The emergence of acne in an adolescent who has not previously had acne or increased acne or acne found in new places, e.g. back and neck

· Increased appetite

· Increased muscle mass

· Development of breast tissue in males

· Complaints about heart palpitations

Medical Signs:

· Increased blood pressure

· Irritation of the stomach lining and other parts of the gastro-intestinal tract

· Indigestion

· Stomach ulcers

· Nausea



· Increased aggression and fighting with family and friends

· Mood changes

· Anxiety and irritability

· Sleeping difficulties

· Depression


· Change in friends

· Running out of pocket money/allowance and asking for more than would seem reasonable

· Withdrawal from family and normal activities

· Decline in school performance

· Taking supplements. Research has shown that adolescents who take supplements have an increased tendency to move onto more serious substances such as steroids and recreational drugs

What can you do?

· Increase your knowledge and education about anabolic steroids. How do they work? What are their dangers and side effects? The following organisations offer good literature in this regard, SharkSmart , South African Institute for Drug Free Sport.

· Understand that hard work, good nutrition, training and conditioning are far more effective physically and psychologically in enhancing sports performance than taking steroids.

· Listen to what you adolescent is talking about with his friends as this will give you a good clue as to his intentions and activities

· Talk to your child about steroids – their use and dangers

· Be vigilant and look out for the above signs and changes in your adolescent’s behaviours

· If you are concerned consult a medical professional urgently


Interesting Facts.

Study of South African schoolboy players returned 12 positive tests for anabolic steroids out of just 52 undertaken


Doping control tests have revealed that school boys in the recent Craven Week schools rugby tournament, tested positive for anabolic steroids and face two year bans from sport.

Doping control tests have revealed that school boys as young as 17 participating in the recent Craven Week schools rugby tournament, have tested positive for anabolic steroids and could face bans of up to two years from sport.


This is according to Khalid Galant, CEO of the Institute for Drug-Free Sport, which has obtained the results of their drug tests carried out on 47% of participants during the schools rugby tournament at the end of June 2011.

Galant says that four boys tested positive for the banned steroids. “Out of the four positives, two results also showed high levels of testosterone and these tests have been sent off for further analysis to Germany to verify whether the levels of testosterone are due to external sources, or naturally produced by the body. Only if the tests confirm that indeed the source of testosterone is from outside of the athlete’s body, will a doping case be opened.”

He says that one positive result is a lot, therefore four positives translates into an 8.5% positive result, which is a serious cause for concern. He also stresses that even though the other the majority of athletes ‘competed clean’ this does not mean that they are not doping as some of them may have stopped taking steroids weeks before the competition, in order to pass the drug tests during the tournament. “Also, only a sample of athletes were tested so these figures would undoubtedly be higher if a bigger sample had been done,” he adds.

He cites one example of one boy’s test that revealed a low concentration of nandrolone, but the levels were too low to open a case according to the doping rules and regulations.

Zero tolerance for doping in teen sports

The Institute for Drug-Free Sport has been very aggressive with its education campaigns in the months leading up to Craven Week Rugby to not only warn athletes of the dangers of doping but to remind them that tests will be carried at school level.

The boys, who cannot be named because they are minors, will face an independent tribunal in two months time. Each anti-doping tribunal hearing is unique irrespective of the substances involved, as there are circumstances that the tribunal may hear in mitigation, which will influence the decision on the ruling of a sanction.

“The standard sentence is a minimum ban of two years and not less than a year where there are mitigating circumstances,” says Galant. “It will be up to the tribunal to rule on the appropriate sanction.”

He says that if these children receive bans, they can kiss their school rugby careers goodbye. “The Craven Week school tournament is known to be the hunting ground for talent scouts looking to find best new players for their provinces.”

He says that the issue of steroid abuse in schools is known to be widespread and the Institute for Drug-Free Sport is increasing its efforts with regard to education, regulation and cracking down on drug trafficking of steroids in light of the shocking statistics that reflect a 100% increase in doping offences in South African sport.

With regard to education, apart from using testing as a deterrent, the Institute recently launched its ‘I Play Fair – Say NO! to Doping’ initiative, aimed at tackling doping in sport; spreading the message of ethics, fair-play and anti-doping in sport.   Schools and young athletes are a key target group for this campaign.

Teens warned about using sports supplements

Galant says that if he has one message to parents, it is to treat sports supplements with extreme caution because many of them contain banned substances.

“Doping is a short-cut that will not only see athletes getting caught but is also dangerous to the athlete’s health,” he explains. “Just because you can easily buy a sports supplement at any grocery store or pharmacy does not mean that the supplement does not contain any banned steroids.   Parents have to be more circumspect about the ingredients of these supplements and especially when words such as “testosterone booster” or “growth-hormone accelerator” are used on the packaging of products.”

(Press release, August 2011)

SARU letter to headmasters re: steroids

Dear Headmaster

The South African Rugby Union has evidence to suggest that the use of anabolic steroids among schoolchildren is on the increase. I am appealing to you today to enlist in a campaign to address and confront this alarming sub-culture.

I should start by conceding that my organisation has no direct jurisdiction over schoolboy rugby; SARU’s influence begins and ends with our Youth Week tournaments. However, we have a duty to alert you to what we believe is happening at schoolboy level and represents a danger to the children in your care and to the sport of rugby.

A number of age group rugby players have tested positive for anabolic steroids and stimulants in the past two years. In interviews they have painted a lurid picture of widespread abuse and the connivance in some instances of coaches and team-mates. This is far from confined only to rugby players or even just to boys, we understand; one survey suggested that 63% of schoolchildren who admitted that they had taken steroids or would consider taking a steroid did so or would do so, not to improve performance, but to look good.

However, we have a responsibility to the game of rugby and those young people who want to pursue the sport and we would strongly urge you and your governing body to seriously engage in this subject; one that threatens the health our children, the ‘fair play’ ethos of sport; the reputation of your school, our sport and even of South Africa. Last, but far, from least, the procurement or supply of anabolic steroids is a criminal activity.

SARU’s request is simple: sign up your school to the free education programme of the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) – the pre-cursor to what we hope will become a long-planned, voluntary schools-testing programme referred to as the SAIDS School Testing programme. The education programme offers information and advice on the topic of drugs in sport and testing procedures and protocols. SARU requests that all schools playing rugby sign up now and ensure that their teachers, coaches and scholars receive this very important education.

In due course, SAIDS hopes to offer a voluntary testing programme – once an agreed protocol has been negotiated with the Department of Basic Education. At that time we would also urge that your school sign up for the testing programme. The aim of the Schools Testing Programme is to educate all school learners on the dangers of steroids as well as acting as a deterrent by suggesting sanctions for schools to apply should a learner test positive for a banned substance once the programme is fully operational.

SARU takes this issue very seriously and we cannot over-emphasise the threat it poses to rugby and to those schools who may unknowingly (or even knowingly) be harbouring steroid abusers. These children are gambling insanely with their health while those with the duty of care who turn a blind eye place at risk their professional well-being.

SARU’s BokSmart programme – on which all coaches and referees must be certified – provides a wealth of information on the dangers of steroid use. As a first step we would urge you to review this literature as well as directing your scholars to its contents as a precursor to signing up with SAIDs. The information is available in several ways:

I hope you will join me in driving this campaign at your school to do all that we can to create a culture that rejects the use of banned substances in schoolboy sport.

To sign up for SAIDS free education programme, please go to Mr. Liam Shirley at 08610724370 or
If you require further information or wish to engage with SARU on this issue please contact our medical manager, Clint Readhead, at or on 021 928 7000.

Yours sincerely




SARU letter to headmasters re: steroids


Training tips for coaches

Hi Coach,

I must admit, now that I’m not playing I do overindulge over the festive period. And, I suspect that I’m not the only one. Luckily I don’t have to race around the pitch in January, though I might be waddling around in a refereeing capacity.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that over the break some of your players won’t have chosen the salad option either. Or, because of the weather and the holiday period, haven’t ventured onto the training field. You will have lost an edge of fitness.

In which case, I suggest you restart the “pre-season” process again, at least for the next few weeks. Test your players fitness with today’s feature of a rugby coaches favourite that takes just 12 minutes to run. Then you can discuss how your players can improve.

Make a plan whereby three-quarters of your time will be spent on basics and fitness, and the last quarter of the plan based on match prep. This will reinvigorate your team, putting them in the right frame of body and mind for the last portion of the season.

Bring the opposition down with this exercise on tackling low. Though it’s aimed at U9 & U10s, I’ve found it to be successful with senior players and have seen international coaches using it.

Two simple drills to work on players’ speed.

A session on how to quickly recycle the ball once your players have made a contribution in a game.

Yours in rugby,
Dan Cottrell,
Head Coach, Better Rugby Coaching


Assess players’ fitness in just 12 minutes

This 12 minute run is an easily administered practical test that’s great to test your players’ fitness at the the start, middle, and end of the season to provide a good guideline of aerobic fitness and the success or otherwise of a conditioning programme that you may be running.

To perform the test, your players simply run as far as they can for 12 minutes!

For most coaches, it is probably the best aerobic test since it is easily administered and requires no equipment other than a venue and a stopwatch.

The ideal venue is a standard 400m running track, but with a little ingenuity it could also be the local horse/ dog/car racing track, or simply a grassed area like the local park, school playground, or your own rugby fields. If you do this test anywhere other than on a measured track you might measure the distance in your car – if you’re using the road – or you might have access to a bicycle with an odometer to measure the distance between points in the park, or you can simply calculate the distance on google maps.

What’s important is that after you’ve completed the 12 minutes you are able to figure out quite accurately just how far your players have run.

Get your players to warm up with ten minutes of gentle running and be sure that they move around while they cool down and stretch afterwards.

It’s important that they pace themselves so that they can finish the test – if they run too hard at the start, then they will run slower towards the end of the test. Likewise if they start too easily, they’re going to be fresh at the end. Tell them to try to maintain a constant pace throughout, and record their lap times so that together, you can plan how to improve.

The chart below gives an indication of where your players are compared to the normal sedentary population in the 18-28 age group. The numbers are the miles/km run and as rugby players, they should be near the top of the table by this point in the season, regardless of the position played.

Distance covered in 12 minutes…



How to coach a low tackle


Get your players used to making low tackles and getting the ball carrier to ground quickly.


1. Put an attacker on the ground on his front with a tackler, also on the ground, 3m away, facing him. Put the ball in front of the attacker.


2. The tackler calls the attacker which shoulder to run to. The attacker gets up, gathers the ball and takes one step to the side at half pace.

3. The tackler gets to his feet and drives his shoulder into the thighs of the attacker just above the knee and grips tightly.


4. The tackler must finish with a tight grip with his head in hard on the attacker’s legs (you, or another observer, check for this).


5. Players then swap roles and repeat. You can develop the activity by increasing the pace of the ball carrier, but don’t let him step inside.



Zigzag and swing drills for speed

Quickly and easily progress your players’ speed and agility with these two simple drills.

1. Zigzag sprint



What you’ll need…

6 markers


Place 6 markers 3-5m apart, zigzag pattern
Run forward through the zigzag pattern
Accelerate toward each marker
At the marker decelerate, lower centre of gravity
Step off the outside foot, turn toward next marker
Accelerate, continue sequence
Repeat 5 times
Rest 90 seconds between repetitions

2. Seated arm swing



Sit upright on the ground, legs extended
Arms bent at 90 degrees, swing in alternate fashion
Backward swing, elbow just below shoulder height
Forward swing bring hands to chest level
Elbows remain close to sides, hands do not cross midline of body
Swing arms in running like action, body should bounce up and down
Complete 5 sets of 20 repetitions
Rest 60 seconds between sets

Prep your players for the next piece of action

The game of rugby is a constant flow of activity. Make sure your players don’t just stop once they’ve made one contribution, but continue to recycle themselves for the next piece of action. This activity helps build that awareness.

What you tell your players the session is about…

Working together in small groups (pods).
Improving your ability to recyle the ball quickly, starting with a ruck situation.

What you tell your players to do…

Receive the pass and go forward as a small group of four.
Target a defender or gap and drive into it.
Go to ground or place the ball on the ground with the supporters driving defenders out of the way.
Clear the ball away to the next group and repeat.
Always pass the ball the same way – left to right, or right to left.

What to call out…

“Make an early decision where to go and commit to it”
“Get into a low body position and keep your legs pumping”
“Place the ball back so it’s clear of the defence”


What to look for…

Ball carriers that take contact and immediately go to ground. There are dangers of being turned over or giving penalties away if they go to ground too quickly. The ball carrier should use more leg drive after making contact.
Players poor at clearing away defenders. Ensure the support players drive tight to the ball carrier.

What to think about…

What height of drive is most effective when clearing the defence away? Are the players targeting weak opponents and gaps or just hitting defenders? How does adding an extra pass affect the practice? Is the players timing of their run onto the pass affected by how successful the previous ruck is?

Rugby quotes

“The excitement of playing the best team in Europe in a hostile environment is why you play the game. Do I believe we can win? Of course I do. I can’t wait to see them play.”

Mike Ford, Bath head coach, ahead of the game against European Champions Cup holders Toulon.



Dan Cottrell’s Better Rugby Coaching