Introduction to Effective Tackling

We at Enso Movement Culture are all about movement. Movement in all aspects of life. I am a rugby fanatic, I play as well as coach. Tackling forms such a big part of rugby. It can be performed well or poorly. With experience I have gained from playing and being coached by some great coaches. As well coaching school level rugby myself, I noticed players struggling with performing a tackle safely and effectively. This made me want to share my experiences and point of view on tackling and the coaching of it. Each coach has their own coaching style. The principles behind the drills always stay more or less the same, but how it is taught and implemented is different. Each coach has their own style. This is how I coach it….

Many aspects of tackling are overlooked. We as coaches usually make the mistake of assuming that the player knows and performs every aspects of a tackle effectively. I have broken down the movements of tackling into simpler steps. These steps are then progressed from a simple mind-set and drills into the whole movement in order to make a tackle. I have broken the tackle down into three steps (Pre, In and Post contact). The reason is as above mentioned, tackling has many aspects that play a role in order to make it an effective tackle. I drew from experiences working with coaches like Jacque Nienaber, Norman Laker and Llewellyn Morkel. This article will form part of an article series about tackling. Building each week on an aspect of the tackle.

What is the aim of defence?

The aim of defence is to stop the ball carrier in the most effective way possible to regain possession or to stop the ball carrier from gaining metres. Tackles can be performed in two ways, either a leg tackle or a body tackle. A leg tackle is where the defender tackles a ball carrier around the legs. A body tackle is when the defender tackles a player above the waist and below the shoulders. Usually with a body tackle the aim is to tackle on the ball.

Which tackle when?

Leg tackling is an effective way to stop a ball carrier at the point of contact. It allows the assisting defender to make an effective poach (steal of the ball). A body tackle on the other hand is mostly performed in a double tackle. With a body tackle you can tackle the ball carrier by tackling the player back for a few metres or tackle and strip the ball. You can also use this tactic to hold the player up to ensure a turnover. The risk of the body tackle though is when you use the incorrect technique by going too high, you might be in rugby terms “bumped” or run over. Something that I have learned the hard way is that with bad technique you can be knocked out or simply be run over.

My philosophy around tackling:

To ensure an effective tackle I break the tackle down into Pre, In- and Post contact.

Simple steps of an effective tackle:

Pre contact (Before contact)

-          Take up space

-          Stay Square (spine in line) - Body position.

-          Break the glass

-          Dip before contact (Power step)

In contact

-          Shoulder hit

-          Brake the shape (Punch and wrap)

-          Leg drive

Post contact (when player is on the ground)

-          Quick Reaction - Gate/ Decision making

-          Poach (steal) or Tank (counter ruck)

-          Recycle

Why do I break the tackle down into smaller steps?

Tackle is a movement that has many aspects that need to be taken into account when performed. The pre contact space will be to put you in a good position to make a tackle. When you are in contact you need to make good shoulder contact and break the shape or body position of the ball carrier. The leg drive is important for you as a defender to finish of your hard work. Post contact forms an important part of a tackle. With quick reaction either to roll away or poach/tank the ball you will have a very good tackle completion. We see so many times how player leaves a step out of the tackle and thus not performing a tackle effectively. Breaking the tackle down will give the player the knowledge of the different dynamics and aspects of a tackle and allow them to focus on the areas where they are weak. First this approach will be systematic. The more you train each step it will become autonomous.

Incorporate these steps into your coaching and add your own insights. Remember the principles are universal, the magic is in the application. The next article in the series will be based on pre contact focus points in order to make an effective tackle.

Here is an intro video into what to expect from the upcoming article series.