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VIDEO: Taking the coach out the box?

Seeing a rugby coach on the sidelines it’s a very rare occurrence when it comes to high-profile leagues like the United Rugby Championship, Challange Cup or Champions Cup.


A coach usually finds himself tucked in a small glass box or the stands, depending on the structure of the stadium.

The mentor would be accompanied by assistant coaches and performance analysts – sporting laptops and various means of two-way communication in the coaching box.

The practice provides the coaches with a great view.

From up high in the stadium, it’s possible to gather a panoramic view to see the game from a completely different perspective.

They also have easy access to live match information and player statistics.

While sitting in the box has its advantages, some coaches are finding innovative ways to get the best out of their team.


For some, it is to get ‘out of the box’.

The South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is a prime example of that.

The two-time World Cup winner – first as coach and then as Director of Rugby – created a stir when he operated as the Springboks’ water boy during the Test series against the British and Irish Lions in 2021.

The role allowed him to position himself within the playing enclosure close to the action, from where he could easily communicate with the players.


At the 2023 World Cup, the DOR again stole the headlines when he revived an old ‘tactic’ of making use of traffic lights to relay his message to the players – a move straight out of the Erasmus playbook.

The traffic light signals divided the rugby fraternity with some thinking it was certainly an effective communication tool to employ.

Recently Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson also took a different approach to match-day coaching.

The gaffer was seen on the touchline during Sale Sharks’ 24-31 loss to the Stormers in the Champions Cup Round Three match in Cape Town this past weekend.

While the practice is very rare in rugby – except the Top 14 – it is ubiquitous in soccer.

Famous football coaches like Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Kopp and Pep Guardiola can be seen running up and down the touchlines, getting emotionally involved and in the thick of the action.

While the coach’s message gets delivered in real-time, without the radio comms, there is an argument that being pitch-side does cloud the judgment, making it a little challenging to make the right calls, because you are so close to the game.

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Commenting on the growing phenomenon, Sanderson revealed two major elements behind his presence pitch side.

“I don’t know how much you can see from sitting in front of the computer or what you can see makes a difference,” Sanderson said after the match in Cape Town.

“I do know that regardless of how they perform, if your coach is there giving you a handshake or hug as you walk off the field or a couple of choice words as you go onto the field, it has a big impact.

“It certainly did for me, so it’s that element.

“Especially with away games, if they [players] can hear me and feel me, aggressively and energetically from the sidelines, maybe it just picks them up.”

Whether in the box or pitch-side, one can certainly not question the level of commitment of the coaches.

But only time will tell if we going to see more coaches dwelling on the sidelines or sticking to the box.


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