Former Sharks and Springbok coach Ian McIntosh has heaped praise on the Investec International Rugby Academy after contributing as a coaching facilitator to the Advanced Course that was run in Durban earlier this month.

The Academy, headed up by Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir, enjoyed a highly successful launch in May last year, with Intermediate, Advanced and High Performance Courses for players and coaches subsequently being conducted throughout South Africa.

In July, the first Advanced Course came to Kwazulu-Natal, with a seven-day Coaches’ Course – aimed at ambitious club, age-grade representative and school coaches – taking place at Michaelhouse in conjunction with the Players’ Course for promising 16 to 18 year-olds.

Two weeks ago, the course was once again brought back to KZN, but this time was run at Glenwood High School, providing participants with the opportunity to interact ¬with top coaches and ex-players such as McIntosh, Mark Andrews, Joost van der Westhuizen, Gary Gold, Hugh Reece-Edwards, Trevor Halstead and Muir.

On the Friday, a game was played between a Glenwood mixed team and an Academy team, with regular stoppages providing an opportunity for the famous facilitators and “position specific” coaches to impart their knowledge in their particular area of expertise.

For example, former Springbok Van der Westhuizen would chat to the scrumhalves about specifics that he had picked up during their brief spell of play, with the game then recommencing to allow the players to put the advice into practice.

Similarly, after returning to the sidelines to intently watch the game get underway again after having imparted some of his words of advice, McIntosh described just how impressed he had been by the course.

“The amount of experience and knowledge that is being shared with these players is quite phenomenal,” he enthused. “You get all these ex-Springboks getting to work individually with each player and also passing their knowledge on to the coaches, which is quite incredible. “I’d love to see more of this throughout South Africa.

This whole concept of the Academy is brilliant. It’s been a very intensive week, there has been individual training and I’ve sat here in amazement during the week. I’ve constantly thought just how lucky these players and coaches are to have had this exposure.”

From a players perspective, the Advanced Course aims to build a solid foundation for those involved that will better prepare them for their rugby future, with a specific focus on position specific coaching, mental toughness, nutrition and their role in the team.

The coaches, meanwhile, work closely with the players, fellow coaches and the Academy experts as they are provided with a framework to identify talent, increase positional knowledge, analyse performance and design strategies and game plans.

With Springbok captain John Smit and Sharks flanker Jacques Botes also popping in to contribute to the course, coaching facilitator McIntosh commended the various rugby pros who so willingly gave of their time to share their expertise with the players and coaches.

“The blokes have come from all parts of South Africa to help out and you can see the passion that they have had when working with the players and coaches. They’ve really given their all and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable for everyone.”