Suntory Sungoliath are a giant of professional rugby in Japan with a long history of success in the Japanese Top League. In this three-part series, learn how the five time champions of Japan are utilizing technology to streamline their performance analysis process to improve player and team performance.

Suntory head coach Milton Haig has over 20 years of international coaching experience, including stints with New Zealand Maori and Counties Manukau in his home country, as head coach of an emerging Georgian national team at two World Cups, before linking up with his current team in Japan.

He has a simple but clear goal for his current side: “Perform well and end up winning the championship”. The head coach is also adamant that the way they analyze their performances is crucial to their chances to succeed in this goal. 

“In terms of how statistics and video analysis help us, it's crucial, it's a vital part of our operation,” said Haig. “Analysis is a vital part of whether we will be successful or not, and how we interpret the information, how we gather the information, and then how we then translate that information to performance on the field are all key components.”

Having coached Georgia through two World Cup cycles, Milton Haig now heads up the coaching team at Suntory Sungoliath.

Suntory uses video analysis throughout their weekly routine, from daily training sessions, through the live analysis on match day. This means that the role of the analyst is now extremely important in the context of professional rugby in the modern era.

“The analyst is now one of the most important people in our whole coaching group just because if you get a good analyst they can make my job as the head coach, but also other, other coaches' jobs so easy because of the detail that he can extract when he's coding,” said Haig.

“And because he's looking at our footage all the time, he can see things that sometimes we don't pick up. We're lucky to have a world-class analyst with us.”

The Suntory coaching and analysis team reviewing footage on Hudl Sportscode.

Jun Sudo is the head analyst for Suntory and is a proficient user of Hudl Sportscode, which he uses to code training and matches to provide feedback to both the coaching and playing team. The speed of Hudl Sportscode and integration with other products such as online platform streamlines a job that is very technical in nature.

“I live code all training sessions and games for our club, and what you upload on for review is completely in sync with the files you create on Sportscode, so you have a seamless workflow,” said Sudo. 

“Now, the new version of Sportscode lets you upload the timeline itself, and then lets coaches download the materials quicker which allows us to share information much faster than before.”

Five time winners of the All-Japan Championship, Suntory Sungoliath have a long history of success in Japanese rugby.

As a former professional player and now widely experienced coach, Haig has a strong grasp on the kind of information that is advantageous in high-performance environments. 

“Analysis is a foundation component to any kind of professional organization for rugby or sport in general,” said Haig. “What coaches have to decide is how deep they go in terms of looking at the information that's provided, because you only really want to get the information that you can understand. 

If I was a coach starting my career, I  wouldn't hesitate to use analysis tools and certainly an analyst with the right equipment to be able to optimize performance.”

Part two of this series focuses on how Suntory Sungoliath use video analysis to prepare for their opponents on the training ground. 

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