The intricacies of player technique


I have over the past few years developed a software program called ‘Rugby Skillset’, that is currently being converted into an Android Application. I can already hear Apple fundies kick up a stink that the iOS platform is not considered but the screen size of the iPhone is currently too small to allow for the proper capturing and viewing of slow motion video.

The gist of Skillset is to help coaches analyse videos by answering certain simple ‘key factors’ around every skill performed.

I have always thought of the Ruggaworld community as a rather informed one (bar perhaps Morne, DavidS, Boertjie, Bryce-in-Oz, Bunny, Deon, Welshbok and a few others) so today I want to ask you to help me determine something about a particular skill I am struggling with.

Skill: Tackling from the front

Please view link:

Why is this player not making a successful tackle?

Thanks for your help, and no, you will not be paid for your work on this app because I am in a very cold country standing in mud testing hundreds of kids while you are sitting, beer in hand watching the Oscar trial. You dont deserve it.

Much love, Brendon



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  1. Thanks in advance for your help. The player is well positioned to make a great tackle and this stance (feet together, hands together – almost NFL like) is coached by Leinster from under 8 right to senior level.

    Yet a few things go wrong as the player makes contact, and i would love to grasp how you guys would word these tiny little aspects of his technique that is faulty?

  2. To me that is a tackle, guess I fall into the less knowledgable. Yes not immediate tackle to ground, but player gets driven back and is brought down behind the gain line. What I can see is that the ball carrier seems to know which is the weaker shoulder of the tackler and therefore attacks on the lefthand side, therefore not an immediate tackle to ground, but the tackler still manages to stop attacking player making ground and brings him to ground.

  3. I coach my players the front on tackle as follows.
    option one: The defensive tackle – when ball carrier has momentum and/or is begger than the tackler. Use momentum of ball carrier and go down with ball carrier,

    Option 2: Offensive tackle – means driving up and through the ball carrier which is only possible if tackler has momentum and/or is bigger than the ball carrier

    In your video your tackler is in the correct body position (hips could be lower) but he is not going through with the tackle. He is inbetween driving the guy back and in effect does nothing, he is waiting for the ball carrier to fall. More aggression needed to drive through the tackle (always be closing)or use the momentum and le the ball carrier fall forward and tackler can use that momentum to get to his feet and contest for the ball.

    Hope that made some sence.

  4. JT,
    My opinion as well. The tackler is trying to stay balanced on his feet instead of driving through with his weight to push the ball carrier off his feet.

    I have a problem that one of the girls do exactly the same thing in the team I coach. Difficult to coach out of her

  5. Lig sy pale. He needs to pull the players legs towards him, to get them of the ground. If he don’t have legs he cant run. And I am not advocating spear tackling here.

  6. To me staying on your feet at the tackle area makes a lot of sense, as you can immediatly compete for posession or at worst slow down attacking ball. So a good result could come from a tackle as this player does it. But that is just me.

  7. He is over reaching – the ball carrier is to far from him – the tackler needs to get his left foot closer to the ball carrier, then he will be able to drive upwards with his left foot, thus driving the ball carrier upwards and then backwards.

    He driving from his right leg at the moment of impact,so he goes sideways, then switches to his left and then his right, crossing his legs and losing all power. This will happen in games because people will try and sidestep you etc. Swing your bodyweight around, and try and pull the guy off his feet, land on yours, release the guy and contest for the ball.

    Not every tackle can be a offensive tackle. Sometimes it is better to pull the guy down, especially if you are a bit taller like me or around the base of the ruck where players tend to be a bit lower. Get the guy on the ground asap and try and compete for the ball rather than trying to tackle him backwards and getting involved in a wrestling match that fatigues you and gives the guy a chance to offload.

    Brenden – if you need help with the app – I have a Samsung Galaxy tab and will be able to test.


  8. On a differnt note: Had a meeting with Sport psycholgist last night and we will be organizing a workshop with the team and if that goes as planned it will become a regular installment and they will be “added” to the coaching staff.

  9. Jeez guys thanks for that. The left leg seems to be something you all agree on (that it needs to be closer to the point of impact)

    I had an idea last night to combine in all the tackle tests the player getting back up and contesting for the ball. All players are coached to do this now and I reckon technique-wise this changes how players enter the tackle.

    Yet a part of me long for the old snap tackle where the runner is stopped dead with a low tackle. Yet I understand this technique makes it harder for the tackler to then contest.

  10. Thanks methos for offering to test on galaxy. I am in the process of having the app translated to french and italian so maybe some of your mates there can also have a go on it?

  11. Had a look at it.

    Not wanting to repeat what was already mentioned this kids has no idea what type of tackle he wants to make. Firstly he should be coached on different types of tackles or in the very least 3 types; dominating, contesting and slowing down. Once he has that sorted he will seek an outcome with a tackle and be more determined when going into contact (because he wants to achieve something specific).

    He looks like a pussy at the moment with his feet completely bufuckled and body not low enough for a dominating tackle, his contact point not high enough to contest or slow down the tackled player and makes impact more with his arms than his shoulder.

    A tackle is an outcome based action where you rate technique, body position, fight and attitude. This kid has no outcome or goal in mind hence he is neither here nor there.

  12. @Ollie:

    Skillset is a pretty much a stripped down version of Coach’s Eye tailored specifically for rugby union players of a certain age. Would love to send you more details shortly.

  13. @Cheetah Glory:

    You gave me an idea I want to implement on Thursday training – I will set-up different skill sessions and record (front on tackle, side tackle, catch & pass at full pace etc.) and then analyse with the guys at our dry session.

    I bet it will be eye opening if the guys anaylse themselves and see how bad their technique really is.

  14. @JT_BOKBEFOK!:

    That was the real idea behind Skillset. This generation of kids want to ‘see’ before they believe. They dont want to listen to a coach bark orders. Their response to these videos have been amazing. To see a prop suddenly concerned about his kicking technique off his left foot really makes my heart blossom

  15. @JT_BOKBEFOK!:

    heheheh no I work with very young players – too young to have been stereotyped into a position. This fat kid might lose the fat so i want to make sure he has all the skills to be a centre if he so chooses later in life

  16. Have to agree with Morne – before executing the tackle you need to know what tackle you are looking to make.

    Everybody moves the big smash but the opportunity for that comes around perhaps 3 or 4 times a game. The guy needs to really be in the right zone for you too to be able to make the smash that will motivate your team/strike the fear of God into the opposition hearts and send the guy to hospital.

    Because let us be honest – that is the goal of the front on smash. It is very difficult for us forwards to make a smash like that against a backline player that has twinkletoes.

    A few years ago I played in a game where twice in the game their backline players tried to run straight over me, making no attempt to sidestep or anything. It didn’t work out well for them – the first one had to leave the field with a concussion and the second with a broken collar bone.

    A few weeks ago I played a game for the B team on my comeback from my eye injury. Their center tried to run between me and another guy – making no attempt to make me shift my aim – went in at full speed and smashed him, breaking his collar bone and hitting him back 3 or 4 meters. Always going to happen when 85kg’s meets 115.

    When I played in CPT we had a coach who proclaimed the powerstep – the little step you give before going into contact, either in defence or when carrying the ball. That would make sure that you had the upperhand in almost any contact situation. Getting the power step right means you are in control of almost any situation.


  17. @Methos The French Stormer:

    Yeh also agree.

    In a game we very rarely get the chance to line up a player properly. Most tackles are close quarter affairs and the final aim of the tackle is no longer to merely bring the player to ground but ultimately to contest and slow down the ball.

    I think body position (back straight, head up,knees bent, head behind body, arms around legs) – are more important ‘key factors’ to a tackle than stuff like legs driving, shoulder placement and all that. We defend to a) stop player b) not get injured c) contest the ball.

  18. I once asked in a team meeting what the goal of defense was.

    Got a few responses – To stop them from scoring a try or smashing them in tackles was more or less what it all boiled down to.

    Then I said according to me it is to turn over the ball so that we can attack and score tries and win the match. You could see the eyes of a few players go click. They never thought of it like that.


  19. @Cheetah Glory:

    Nowadays the arms around the legs tackle just leaves you open to offloads.

    Do you have my email address? Talk to me when you get to ball carrying and hand offs, and offloads – I have some theories about that as well And forwards in the backline and mauls in particular :soek:


  20. @Methos The French Stormer: @Methos The French Stormer:

    There are very, very few instances where you get the opportunity to execute a front on tackle, or even a one-on-one tackle. The norm nowadays is the double hit by the defensive team.

    Methos you are quite correct on the power-step bud – it is the most effective weapon going into contact either offensively or defensively.

    I know individual tackle technique is important and why Bren posted this, but the defensive coaches I have chatted to all mentioned the same thing; effective defence is dependent on the system, not the individual.

    Also Jacques Nienaber is of the opinion that a good defender is more often measured on something that will always be subjective – ballas.

    Defence is an attitude first, technique second.

    Willem Alberts for instance has the worst tackle technique in the world, but fuck me you don’t want to be smashed by him.

  21. @Morné:

    But then Alberts could be so much better by just improving his technique.

    Seems a no brainer to me.
    This is where SA loses out to NZ. Too much emphasis on arhletesism and too little on skills

  22. For fucks sake after weeks working with under 16’s I started with a group of under 13’s today and just realized again how differently we should approach coaching at various age levels.

    Like the saying goes “babies are not small adults” and this its ok to talk to them differently

    Same with coaching. Screw intricate technique if you work with kids still learning the absolute basics.

    Firstly I will only test their tackle from the left or right. And in the tackle I only look at a) the body position ‘going low’ b) head behind (for safety) b) do you stop the runner from going forward? d) Do you bring the runner to the ground?

    I simply dont think it should be more complicated than this?

  23. @Cheetah Glory:

    Body height, head, leg position. That is all you need to know about technique and get that right.

    But for the love of god coach them the purpose of defence and it is not just to bliksem someone into the ground. Rugby is played with a ball, everything you do is about getting it and scoring with it.

  24. Just had a thought:

    In modern rugby, is ‘rolling away’ after a tackle today not as important as making it?

  25. Naah i realised that rolling away is not central to the technique required to make a tackle.

    for the average 10 year old i reckon

    1) low body possie
    2) launch
    3) head behind bum
    4) grab both legs

    is probably the holy grail.