Archives For Catching

G’day Coach.

If your backs aren’t making the catches that you expected of their skill or level of competition, then this is what you will need to pay attention to and improve first…

[Play The Video] to discover the simple remedy (or starting point is a better description), for too many missed catches in rugby…

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By Stuart Lierich

So, it appears a great weekend in Super Rugby to highlight what it is to possess great “catching attitude” as a player.

It was only two days ago that I wrote a small article piece explaining what this is, using a Willie Le Roux high ball catch as an example.

This article seemed to polarise somewhat, as I am suggesting for a player to be a good consistent catcher of a high ball, they will need to remove all self preservation in doing so.

Click here to read “Remove Self Preservation & Make More Catches”

Have I lost you yet?

Well, the message is simple.

Coaches need to take responsibility for promoting, encouraging and coaching players to make a unwavering comitment to the ball when attempting a high catch.

Ball first, self preservation second…this is your recipe to make more catches.

One outstanding exponent of skilful catching is Jaguares (Super Rugby) fullback Emiliano Boffelli.

Granted, he is a tremendous athlete with plenty of skill in several areas. But I am using Emiliano to deliver my key messages on vision and attentional focus here today.

Rather than just marvel at these displays, I’d like you to consider how you can adapt the message for your players, as this is more about attitude than talent that creates such opportunities.

Watch the three example videos below (average 20secs each) and observe how Emiliano’s focus of attention is ultimately responsible for these brilliant plays.

Catch One

  • with much work to do in the chase, Emiliano tracks and catches a high contestable kick maintaining possession and allowing his team to mount an attack. Ask yourself how many of your backs would not even have tried to chase that kick, assuming they’d not make it?? Attitude is everything…


Catch Two

  • after a quick assessment of oncoming traffic, and no regard for his own safety, Emiliano makes a ‘dominant’ leap to secure the ball in the air. You may get hurt, but Attitude is everything…


Catch Three

  • with great awareness and timing Emiliano puts himself in a great position to catch a chip kick and score a try. Note, with strong prospects of physical contact he maintained only a focus on the ball and his momentum won him the contact. Attitude is everything…


Yes coach, it is up to you to help develop both confidence (focus, vision, commitment) and skill (tracking, timing, leap, catch) to execute more catches.

What’s the point of chip kicking or sending up a bomb, after all?

By Stuart Lierich

A word of warning with these ramblings.

If you are a conservative rugby coach then I suggest you look away now, as for many of you this article may be too challenging to long held beliefs about catching a high ball.

This is not an instructional piece by any means. More a view on what I believe should be the benchmark standard for catching “Attitude”.

“What?!”, I hear you say, “is catching attitude?”

Take a look at this clip (25secs) of Willie Le Roux catching a high ball for the Sharks in Super Rugby:


Catching attitude is a measure of a players commitment to the ball (catch attempt). We can all tell a mile away the player that doesn’t really make the required effort to make a catch, or at least create a contest.

This highlight of Willie making a high ball catch highlights several things (yes, aside from the fact you may get hurt):

  • An unwavering focus (on the ball) throughout the whole play for the ball, including his ground steps
  • Controlled tempo into the vertical leap, creating a (high) dominant position in the clouds away from defenders arms

And here is the attitude part:

Willie put aside all self preservation when committing only to the ball. This was a catch he had to make, and he didn’t let his team down.

Granted, Willie does turn his body at the highest point. I feel this was to ensure a comfortable chest catch, rather than for protection as he was already ‘wide open’ to having his legs taken out.

You see, (the coaching of) self preservation is the enemy of catching a high ball in rugby.

Yet, you only have to trawl the internet, search on Youtube or have a chat at your local club to see that still most players are coached this way:

  • Keep your eye on the ball
  • As you jump turn your body to protect yourself from on coming traffic etc etc

The focus in rugby for far too long has been more about protecting yourself than catching the ball (contestable kicks), and I believe this must change. A player with great catching attitude (positive) is more likely to secure catches than the player with a ‘protect first’ attitude (negative).

Often these closed catching drills in practice are far removed from the chaotic & dynamic reality of what actually happens when a real ‘up and under’ is launched in a game.

If we, as coaches, remove much of the mechanical/technical aspects of catching a little and just let the players learn to adapt to catching in traffic, they WILL improve. They will also become more confident and skilful as a result.

Sure you can assist with key coaching points of tracking, leap and catch, but do it with a BALL FOCUS.

What I am saying here is try losing the protect yourself, technical aspect of coaching and bring out a committed attitude to making catches. Quite simply, the ball must be the primary focus, before self protection.

Coach, I implore you to bring this mindset into your coaching of the skill, and I assure you your players will benefit.

Still not convinced?

Have a look at some brilliant examples below of “ball focused” catching from the AFL. Many of these are contested catches (marks), and worth noting this is a ‘360 degree’ game :

By Stuart Lierich





Yes, it is.

In fact, I would list quality vision (focus of attention) as the single most important skill when attempting to catch a rugby ball from a team mate’s boot.

You see, a dominant catching position, great vertical leap and strong hands don’t count for anything if you can’t correctly track a ball on its flight path.

Think about this for a moment. How often (at all levels) do we see a player totally misjudge a catch attempt OR get so close to catching it, yet is just out of reach.

In particular, we see a lot of contestable kicks land without contest or a player frantically dives at the last second to secure possession but just misses it.

This is so very costly when you consider:

  • ‘Bomb’ diffusal is a serious business in our own territory
  • Making that midfield catch keeps the ball in our possession to play off the back of in attack
  • Catching a cross kick (assuming good decision to kick in first place) in our go zone allows us the opportunity to finish a scoring play

Much of this can easily be prevented if coaches understand that a player’s vision and ability to track the ball flight is critical in determining the final outcome.

A previous article on the key components of catching here

It is wise for players to identify the cues a teammate gives before kicking. Not all kicks are called for or pre arranged, so any potential receivers need to be able to react fast when one is released. Any advantage over the opposition here will do.

A good player will already have an idea of ‘traffic’ in their area, any potential distractions or impediments to the path of the ball.

Delivering chaotic kick/catch practice will help players build this awareness for games. Believe me, it is a skill worth your while to develop.

After a quick scan of the opposition all attention must be given to the kicker’s body shape and contact on the ball. There are lots of informational cues here that receiving players can process to make their catch attempt successful.

Cues such as which angle the kicker is facing, the power of the kick (swing) and even the sound the ball makes will help. Remember, even though a receiver knows a kicker is aiming for a certain ‘target’ area, the ball doesn’t always come off or land perfect. It is the receiver that can adapt to a less than ideal kick (using cues) that will get to the ‘real’ position the ball will drop.

And Another Thing…players attempting to catch a kick, mustn’t ever get mislead by the positioning of opposition players. Warning! Don’t use the other team as guide for where the ball will land as some will be more focused on YOU.

Now back to Vision…

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The real key here is twofold:

  1. The receiver must ‘work early’ by getting out of the blocks with speed. Any adjustments to tempo can be made closer to the leap or catch attempt. This is much more likely to produce a catch than a player having to adjust speed or make up ground late in the attempt.
  2. Watch the ball all the way from the boot until your possession. This (external) target focus will help keep you on auto pilot and allow you better time the catch attempt. A player distracted by threat of potential contact or lacking in catch confidence is less likely to excel here. A sustained,laser like focus will assist in removing distractions.

So, by making good ground early and maintaining a focus on the ball flight will allow players the necessary time to either adjust or go straight into the catch attempt.

Timing is everything, right?

Catching a kick in rugby is all about timing (think cross field kick to a winger that doesn’t break stride, maintaining pace onto the ball) and/or creating a dominant body position from which to catch (think a strong vertical leap in a crowded midfield contest).

These attributes of a successful catch don’t happen by themselves. They are the by product of players that make good assessments of their environment, using their VISION to get them into a good position to do so.

George North Catches A Cross Field Kick To Score (Below). Watch how he adjusts his running line just before catching to ensure a clean take!

Coach, consider more than only the outcome of a catch attempt. I suggest you pay more attention to the lead up process.

With your help and these tips I know your team will catch many more than they will spill.

By Stuart Lierich