“Weird” Smith incorporating martial arts into Black Ferns’ game

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When Wayne Smith took over as head coach of the Black Ferns, he made it clear that with the Rugby World Cup just months away, the status quo had to go.

At the moment, the team is back in camp and already it has made a completely different start.

Smith introduced his side to the dojo – a form of martial arts – to help give players an edge and reignite competition.

“It’s getting really competitive,” halfback Kendra Cocksedge told 1News.

“Once one person lands a big hit, everyone feels they need to lift as well, so it’s definitely competitive and we wouldn’t be on this team if we weren’t.”

Smith said he had already been knocked down several times during the intense training, but he didn’t want it to be any other way.

“I grew up as a coach not following the herd. I’m a bit weird, I think, as a coach – well, people told me I was weird – so we do it a lot differently said Smith.

“ I like to learn through play to ask questions [and focus on] self-awareness rather than instructing, so it’s different from what they’ve had before.

The new perspective is already being felt among the group of players.

“He’s such a great guy! He has so much knowledge and we thrive on that,” said midfielder Amy du Plessis.

“He wants us to keep the ball alive in our game plan, so a lot to keep him alive, making sure our fight is executed well.

“It was really cool, really different and the change is good so we like it.”

Cocksedge added that the new experience was also positive for the team eyeing the World Cup.

“A few years ago we did eight weeks of sole jiu jitsu, which is good for body contact, but the dojo is more rugby specific,” she said.

“Tackling, clearing, ball contact – all that stuff, you reduce it to a skill mic.

“Someone like me who is a bit smaller, it’s good for me in my mindset to take on bigger players, which is good for me.”

Smith believes the sessions helped the team develop more confidence in the contact zone.

“Well build [confidence] throughout the tournament,” he said.

“We’re up against big teams – teams that have been working in the gym for a long time, so we have to match that or beat it.”

His first test – literally – coming in just six days.

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