by Johnny Humpries
SMUS Senior Rugby was fortunate to have another national coach pay a visit to the school last Thursday. Following last year’s visit by Graham Henry, coach of the New Zealand All Blacks, this year’s visiting coach was Marcello Loffreda, former coach of the Argentinean National Team. Loffreda, an icon in the rugby world, is considered the mastermind behind Argentina’s third-place finish in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
This year’s SMUS squad boasts skill and speed in typical SMUS fashion, and the esteemed coach’s knowledge was helpful in developing thinking and execution skills that will undoubtedly serve the team during the coming rugby season.
The afternoon started with some dirty work. Loffreda, with the aid of SMUS coaches, worked on breakdown skills with the boys. He stressed the importance of stealing the ball at the breakdown and taught some useful tips to help tacklers regain ball possession. From there, he worked on improving defensive structure and organization. He taught the fundamentals first, and then increased the difficulty of the exercises by making them more game-like. Throughout the course of the drills he stopped the boys to point out details that needed improving, emphasizing attention to detail as an aspect of our team’s development that needs work.
After working hard on defensive skills the team moved into offensive work, focusing on precision passing, timing, and decision-making. Loffreda had the boys organized into tight channels to practice quick, fluid passing. Although a bit sluggish at first, the boys learned to pass the ball more efficiently, and were glad to see noticeable improvement as these sorts of skills will be essential to the style of rugby the squad wants to play. The boys were then asked to execute their skills in a more game-like situation by adding defence into the drill. Again, the boys learned much in a short period of time and demonstrated noticeable improvement. The last exercise of the day asked much of the boys, as they were tired and they began to lose focus. Loffreda, seizing the opportunity, drilled home the importance of focus in rugby, which would prove to be one of the most valuable lessons of the day.
After an hour-and-a-half of intense training, SMUS players and coaches came away with some new skills to work on and better knowledge of the game. Marcello Loffreda’s visit will be remembered as a tremendous learning experience and a good influence in this year’s rugby season.