Loretto'S Rugby Learns From South Africa

Rugby at Loretto has seen dramatic improvements at all ages as the result of a new strategy. Loretto’s Headmaster, Peter Hogan, was previously Head of Llandovery in Wales .

Mr Hogan has appointed Daniel Rossouw as the dedicated Director of Rugby, which has allowed a greater focus on the organisation of rugby and injected fresh South African enthusiasm into the game.

Rugby at Loretto has seen dramatic improvements at all ages as the result of a new strategy. Loretto’s Headmaster, Peter Hogan, was previously Head of Llandovery in Wales.

Mr Hogan has appointed Daniel Rossouw as the dedicated Director of Rugby, which has allowed a greater focus on the organisation of rugby and injected fresh South African enthusiasm into the game. 

As a result, Loretto rugby is back on top; the boys now have a winning mindset and are motivated, disciplined and well drilled; and they are achieving success with a can-do attitude rather than a ‘macho rugger attitude’.

Daniel Rossouw, who currently plays touch rugby for Scotland, is steeped in South African rugby. He played provincial rugby while at school, at senior level for the North–Western Cape and for the University of Stellenbosch, and says:

“A real passion for the game, intense training, one hundred percent effort and a win-at-all-cost mentality is what makes a team successful. So it is rather a package that makes them successful than one thing that stands out. Religion does play a big role in South African rugby and matches at any level won’t start or finish without a prayer.

“I feel that coaches at Loretto have successfully transferred responsibility on to the boys, and the players have been transformed into a tight, passionate group.”

“The results speak for themselves. Loretto is currently second in the UK league just below Sedbergh. Loretto won the Edinburgh Touch Rugby League for the first time in the summer and the 1st XV now goes into most matches as favourites. One of the School’s players, Jonny Perriam, captained Edinburgh’s Under 16 team last year, and Jonny, along with Ryan Hook, Aaron Welsh and Cameron Warnock, are in this year’s Edinburgh U17 Training Squad.”

The success has been partly down to rigorous coaching and training regimes, as well as more depth in the player pool.  Rugby training started early, back in the spring term when Edinburgh Rugby visited the School. A lot of skills and fitness training followed in the summer term, and there was a pre-season rugby camp.

All the teams, Under 13, Under 14, Under 15, Under 16, 2nd XV and the 1st XV, train together on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The 1st XV train five days a week then play matches on Saturdays. Their programme includes all the components of fitness: strength, endurance, speed, agility, flexibility (through yoga and pilates classes), balance, reaction time and co-ordination.

The team also learns from inspiring quotes (such as Marcia Wieder’s ‘Commitment leads to action. Action brings your dream closer’); from motivational videos and talks; and from post-match analysis. The team has also worked hard on their recovery strategies, and on nutrition and hydration. To speed up recovery they use contrast showers, ice baths and active pool sessions.

Mr Rossouw continues: “We’ve made lots of small improvements and these all add up. To paraphrase Sir Clive Woodward in his book Winning! - ‘lots of drops in a bucket eventually fill the bucket, and every drop in the bucket makes a difference’.

“For a team to be successful, everyone needs to know what they have to achieve, so the team must have clear goals and everyone’s noses have to be pointing in the same direction. Our objective is for Loretto to be seen as one of the strongest rugby schools in Scotland.

“Our Firsts are older and more experienced than they were last year, and our home grown rugby talent has been complemented by a small number of rugby scholars and exchange pupils.”

The result, says Mr Rossouw, is that: “The boys’ attitude to rugby is fantastic. They are very positive, very committed and now believe they can win. Kids turn up early for training sessions and are highly motivated. If we go into a match and lose it’s not down to a lack of effort.

“We are now attracting boys who are interested in rugby and want to play for Loretto.”

The School offers Rugby Scholarships to particularly talented players and runs an exchange programme which gives rugby enthusiasts an opportunity to play in schools in South Africa and Australia. They can also visit an elite professional ‘Rugby Performance Centre’ in South Africa, which can provide a stepping stone for a career in rugby. Further information on Loretto Rugby is available from www.loretto.com or via Admissions on 0131 653 4455.