There is a new Magician leaving town this evening with his troop, catching the midnight plane to the Borneo 7s which is taking place at the Eagles Rugby Club in Sandakan, Malaysia this weekend.
The magician I am referring to is Peter Woods, the new Sri Lankan 7s coach, and he has a magic trick that has worked the world over, in all sports and at all levels. His magic trick relies on one very special ingredient that all successful coaches use on a daily basis. It is HARD WORK.
The Sri Lankan Men’s 7s team have been doing a lot of hard work in the last two weeks since they came together after their 15 a side Club season. First there was testing to see where the team was at physically and then the strength and conditioning guru, Nick Groube, put them through a program to bring the team up to the 7s fitness standards that Peter Woods’ believes is necessary to compete on the international stage.
“ 95% of the players were below the required fitness levels needed in international rugby, but to the players credit there have been no complaints about the training,” says Woods, who has the team training twice a day during the week. Fitness has been incorporated into training because time is limited but when the players are on the field they break for water and a re-focus every 10 to 12 minutes. Skill correction and constant coaching means there is a steep learning curve for all involved but that is what is needed if Sri Lankan national teams are able to compete against the best in our region.
The hopes for the Sri Lankan 7s teams, both Men’s and Women’s, at the Borneo 7s were spelt out when I spoke with Inthi Marikar, Sri Lankan Rugby’s High Performance Manager. “ It is not just about the results in Borneo, they are important yes, but it is a very difficult tournament, both teams play four games on day one and the Men’s team are facing a New Zealand Borneo 7s invitational side that could be made from Auckland Rugby 7s players,” as Inthi continues, “ it is about the hard work it will take for the team to do well in Borneo and it is also the first opportunity for the coach to see his team in tournament play.”
The players will obviously grow together as a team by being away in tournament mode and it is also an opportunity to develop the younger players, of which there are five from last year’s successful U20 team in the Borneo squad. But the real goal is to prepare for the Hong Kong qualifiers where the winner goes on to compete in the Rugby 7s World Series.
“Generally it takes about four tournaments to get a players to gel together as a team,” says Woods, “so we are looking to improve the teams’ skills, fitness and also their comms.” Comms is rugby talk for communication and it is a vital ingredient for all kinds of rugby but especially for 7s. Every player needs to know who their team mates are marking, where they are running to form an attack, how their team is going to make the most of the space that is in front of them. All of that information comes from communicating with each other. And that takes time. Four tournaments is the amount of time Woods allured to earlier.
Is it a co-incidence that the Hong Kong 7s team, Sri Lanka’s traditional rugby nemesis, have played four tournaments before arriving at Borneo? Chile and Namibia join Hong Kong and Sri Lanka in pool play in the Hong Kong 7s qualifiers but before we get to that tournament we must first learn from the experience that is the Borneo 7s. Four games of international rugby 7s in one day sounds like a lot of the magic ingredient to me but then that is exactly what magicians bring at showtime. Magic.