Refresh Series: Kicking with Jaco van der Walt
With rugby club youth sections up and down the country slowly returning to action, we're giving young players the chance to refresh their skills as we bring you a series of masterclasses from our top pros - writes James Parsons.
First up is Scotland international stand-off Jaco van der Walt, who, having amassed 409 points in 69 appearances for Edinburgh, has made a name for himself as one of European rugby's most lethal kickers.
In this first Refresh Series feature, Van der Walt shares some of his top tips to help young kickers as they return to competitive rugby. From his kicking process to his mindset after a miss, Jaco shares all in a bid to help you improve your skills.
Trust your mindset
“First I assess the weather, where the wind is going. It’s then important to place the ball the correct way, I normally line it up just inside the right hand pole.
"I don’t have a big process, but it’s about getting into the right mindset and being confident that you can get the kick through.
"You’ve been training for it all week, so it’s just about pulling it off on game day.”
The run up is everything
“In the week I work on my momentum, my run up to the ball needs to be good. If one step is bigger than the other, the strike of the ball can be a bit different.
I purely kick on momentum, and follow through the kick, going beyond the ball. The first couple of kicks I just walk through what I will do, to practise getting my momentum and movements right.
"When I feel that the steps and movement is good, I then do the exact same but with a full run through.”
Practice makes perfect… but don’t over do it
“I kick every single day. Some days I focus on goal kicking, and others kickoffs and kicks to touch. If I struggle on a day I’ll kick a bit longer than usual, but if I feel that my strike is good and my momentum is good then I’ll only need to do a few kicks and I’ll be happy.
"You don’t have to kick so much that you hurt your leg and can’t walk the next morning, as long as you’re comfortable with your kick you don’t need to over do it.”
What about practice if you can’t get to a pitch?
“If you can get into a park or anything that would be great. You can aim at a tree, or something like that. If you don’t have access to outdoor space, stand in front of a mirror and go through the process.
"Pretend there’s a ball, and practice focusing on your steps and momentum. It sounds stupid, and might look insane, but if you practice in front of a mirror you can work out the best way of planting your foot for example. You can see where you can improve your technique.
"Sometimes I put my tee down without the ball and pretend that I’m kicking my ball, going through my process. Everyone has got different styles, and if it works for you, it works for you!”
Don’t worry if you miss a kick
“I like to get the first kick, it gives you confidence. But if you miss, try to forget about it and focus on the next kick.
"If you follow your process, and what you’ve been practicing all week, you can forget the miss and move onto the next kick.
"Tell yourself that you’ve got another kick to focus on, and another chance to get points on the board.”
Focus on your momentum and the rest will come
“Small technical things will come, where your foot needs to be pointed, how you arch your leg etc, but for me I focus on the strike, kicking through the ball, and finishing your kick past the ball, following the ball and walking through past where the ball was placed.”