Holmes is where the heart is
Throughout lockdown, most people watched old games of rugby as a form of escapism, to relive some of the classic moments; from the the iconic “Toonie Flip”, to Chloe Rollie’s incredible 95m run to the try-line against Ireland or that jaw-dropping pass from the 2018 Calcutta Cup game. But for Scotland Women Assistant Coach, Tyrone Holmes, it was an opportunity to learn and expand his knowledge on the small but crucial details of the game.
“I’ve always had a love for learning about how attacks manipulate defences and how defences shape attacks. It’s like a chess game,” he said. “Behind the scenes, I always enjoy watching rugby, analysing the opposition and finding little weaknesses here and there.”
For those that know Holmes, it’s clear that he brings passion and a relentless drive to his role, but his love for rugby started at a very young age.
“I’ve always loved sport. I’ve played every sport under the sun but I think I’m just competitive. As a South African, you starting playing rugby from the age of five and I’ve played the game ever since.
“From running bare foot at 7am in the freezing cold to then getting older and being allowed to wear boots and stuff – it’s a game I’ve never stopped playing.”
The former flanker brings a wealth of playing experience to his latest role, having previously enjoyed stints with Stormers, Western Province, Northampton and Newcastle Falcons.
“I’ve had a lot of exposure to some world-class coaches and I’ve obviously been able to take bits and pieces and build my own coaching philosophy. Defensive coaching was always my passion.
“Right at the beginning, Jacques Nienaber [Head Coach of South Africa] was the Stormers defensive coach and was someone who had a big impact on how I coach – particularly around how I interact with players and some of my principles.”
In 2013, Holmes joined Glasgow Warriors before earning a cap for both Scotland A and then Scotland. The former Warrior believes that his previous experience has helped him understand what it takes to be an international rugby player.
“I think that has put me in a good position as a coach," he said. "While I was playing, I wasn’t really thinking about being a coach but then towards the end of my career I went to Nice for two years where I had a senior player / mentor role.
“I really enjoyed trying to help young players reach their potential to become a professional but also to trying to explain to them what it takes to get to that level.
“I think having that ambition of wanting to improve players whilst also having the knowledge of how defences and attacks worked helped steer me in the direction of wanting to be a coach.”
The cohort had a turbulent start to the year, but Holmes insists that there was vital learnings to take from lockdown and the match postponements.
“It definitely wasn’t the easiest start to the year. As a player, you need to be able to adapt to the situations going on around you.
“The goalposts shifted when the pandemic started and everyone needed to change how they worked. We had to change how we analysed things and how we communicated with players.
“It was a great time for me to revisit all my coaching principles. Another positive was that I got to watch a lot of Super Rugby and analyse the way the game is being refereed at the moment. You don’t always have the time to watch other teams in other competitions so it was great to watch Super Rugby over lockdown.”
The squad have enjoyed a promising restart to their campaign, drawing 13-13 with France – who are currently ranked 4th in the world – last Sunday.
The Scots will also play Wales this weekend in Cardiff, before their final Six Nations game against Italy at the start of December – a match which will double up as a repechage tie as part of the qualification process for next year’s Rugby World Cup.
With an exciting end to the year approaching, Holmes insists that preparation and confidence will be crucial over the next two months.
“I think we will be pretty full on for the rest of the year. It’s important to make the most of this opportunity. It’s going to be tough but the good thing is we are all in it to win it.
“Everyone is committed to qualifying for the Rugby World Cup and we’ve got an exciting few months ahead.”