Test match rugby is the traditional apex of rugby union, where the speed, physicality and prestige of the game take another step up from club level.  We caught up with the coaching staff of the current Rugby World Cup champions to take a look at what rugby analysis looks like at the top level of rugby union. 

When asked about what it takes to be successful at test level, Springboks Assistant Coach Felix Jones simply stated, “the easy answer is winning rugby, as test rugby is its own animal and is very much based on a pressure game.” 

The former Munster player joined the Springboks staff before the victorious 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign and has seen the level of analysis required in the fast-moving arena of international rugby change over time. 

Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager celebrate victory in the second test of the Lions Tour.

“Gone are the days where you could go through a week’s training, or even a couple of sessions and not look back at it,” said Jones. “Pretty much every session is recorded from two or three angles and players want instantaneous feedback.“

The Springboks use Hudl and Hudl Sportscode to analyze footage before, during and after matches. With short turnarounds between games in the international arena, these tools help tackle the issue of time being in short supply.

“Our games come around very fast and players are looking for feedback immediately after a game or immediately after a training session, so it’s so valuable having a tool that is readily available, that can send images or clips to a player on his phone almost immediately, and you can also use it as a platform to talk to a player through,” said Jones.

We caught up on camera with Springboks Senior Manager of Technical Support Willie Maree.

“With the game itself, being able to go into such depth using the different software tools that are available now, being able to make drawings and add in different slides to get a message across, all encompassing video analysis methods. It's absolutely huge in terms of a coaching tool to get your point across, it's massive.”

For Springboks Senior Manager of Technical Support Willie Maree, it’s the global communication aspect of video analysis that makes it such an effective tool.

“When communicating with players, Hudl allows us to coach remotely,” said Maree. “The fact that a player sits in England or Japan is actually irrelevant at this stage because all of the analysis platforms are remote. We can give feedback on a cloud-based system against the specific KPI’s we set for our players.”

“It’s crucial to break a game down to its elements. We want to build a library of lineouts, scrums, and general play, which we can pick up small triggers from, allowing us to better prepare for a specific match, or for a specific play.

When it comes to describing these KPI’s, the Springboks have a special term - ‘battle right’. 

“For a well performing player, one of our go-to stats is ‘battle right’, which is where we encourage players to get in another battle within the game plan of a specific match. This could include winning the contact at the ruck breakdown, or being dominant in the tackle,” said Maree. “Battle right is a key component of how we measure players and give feedback for both matches and training sessions.”

Analyzing the opposition team before taking the field is a key component of how the Springboks prepare, and information is a crucial variable in terms of how successful that preparation is. 

“We get footage from across the world and nothing is unseen,” said Maree. “This footage allows us to determine the DNA of each specific team. We want to almost predict their next move, and on the day we just hope we did our homework better than they did. We basically analyze what we want to determine, and play chess with the opposition.”

The Springboks surround Cheslin Kolbe after another trademark try.

Again, in relation to information, the Springboks use Hudl Sportscode to keep a database of key events to revisit in their analysis workflow. 

“It’s crucial to break a game down to its elements,” said Maree. “We want to build a library of lineouts, scrums, and general play, which we can pick up small triggers from, allowing us to better prepare for a specific match, or for a specific play. 

We build a DNA for the specific team we are facing, whether it's a set play, or a player, it's about picking up triggers that allow us to perform on the day.

We work with big data sets, but with specific tools such as Hudl Sportscode, it allows us to bring data to life from actually showing the player data and statistics, on a specific moment, within a specific match. So for us it’s key using specific tools to bring data to life for players.”

To learn more about how Hudl fuels the modern game of rugby, check out our rugby-specific analysis solutions, or take a look at our other professional case studies from the Premiership Rugby team Leicester Tigers and the British & Irish Lions.