The right man for Rovers Rugby

2014-10-11 00:00

AFTER a tumultuous season with a number of coaches coming and going, College Rovers have named their head coach for next year’s season in which they hope to return to their formidable best.

Derek Heiberg (39), who originally hails from Cape Town, comes to the club with over 12 years of coaching experience and is champing at the bit to coach one of KZN’s top club rugby sides.

Schooled at Bergvliet, Heiberg went on to play for False Bay Rugby Club after school until injury coaxed him into coaching.

“I did my ACLs in both my knees and decided to start coaching at the Western Province academy. After I had done my honours in Biokinetics I moved on to coaching club rugby,” Heiberg told Weekend Witness.

Having had coaching stints with rival Cape Town clubs, Hamiltons and Villagers, Heiberg got married before looking for a change of scenery.

“We put our feelers out and I was lucky that Glenwood asked me to come and take care of the conditioning of their different sportsmen.”

After moving to Ballito, he also got on board with Durban Collegians and spent two years there while working at Glenwood. Collegians had a successful 2014 season, culminating in winning the Premier division league, the Moor Cup.

Heiberg was once again contacted by an opposition club and could not turn down the first head coach position of his club career.

“I think I got to a stage where I had outgrown Collegians and could not help make any more changes there.”

In a similar situation to the Hamiltons-Villagers rivalry, Heiberg now joins Rovers, who have an equally healthy rivalry with Collegians. Despite this, he is excited to coach a team he has tried to figure out for some time.

“It will be great to work with a talented team who I’ve been watching for two years and it is difficult to find too many technical faults. On the other hand, I think Rovers might have lost that culture of having fun which is what club rugby should be about.”

His approach to coaching is somewhat progressive, with what he can only describe as a “collaborative coaching style” focusing on stats and goals.

Heiberg hopes to set performance goals for matches and analyse these which then makes it clear what is expected of a player and what they need to work on.

“There needs to be goals and a reason behind why these guys are playing rugby. If you can get that right you will have a happy team,” he said.

Looking ahead, Heiberg was tentative to set out goals in the way of trophies next year and is more focused on his players.

“Getting players happy is important. If they are enjoying their rugby and we get that right we will win matches.”

In the back of the club’s mind is the upcoming Community Cup but the club rugby calendar is a long one, and Heiberg will be looking to build a group that can go out and compete in the Moor Cup and the Murray Cup knockout competitions.

He is also head coach of the Sharks Club XV, who face the Leopards today at King’s Park in the final of the Saru Amateur Provincial tournament.

Kick-off is at 3 pm on KP 2.

Heiberg’s future goals

“When we moved to KZN I definitely wanted to further my career. I’d love to coach a provincial side one day and being at Rovers puts me one step closer to that goal.”

Heiberg on New Zealand teams

“When I was at the Western Province Academy, I was adamant we were doing our conditioning wrong. We have naturally bigger players than the guys from NZ, but they are faster and more explosive. I spent some time with the Waratahs, Hurricanes and Highlanders and it was an eye opener on how to manage players. They are adults and they make their own decisions to go out for a few drinks and that sort of thing — but they are held accountable.”

Heiberg’s approach to rugby

“I am quite big on defence. It tells you a lot about a team’s character. It is an added bonus if you have pacey outside backs because a quick turnover from good defence gives you great opportunities. You also need a good set piece and a number of key decision makers on the field to pull the strings.”

Heiberg on being a coach

“It takes a long time to figure out who you are as a coach. I can say it is not so much about technical knowledge, but more about being able to manage and deal with players in the right way.”

Coaching history

∙ Skills and conditioning coach for Wynberg Boys’ High School 1st XV: January 2003 – September 2004

∙ Academy officer at Western Province Rugby Academy: January 2002 – November 2004

∙ Conditioning and backline coach for False Bay Rugby Club 1st XV: January 2002 – December 2004

∙ Conditioning and skills coach for Western Province Women’s Rugby Team: February 2003 – September 2006

∙ Voluntary assistant trainer at the Hurricanes: November 2004 – January 2005

∙ Conditioning and backline coach for Hamiltons Rugby Club 1st XV: January 2005 – December 2006

∙ Conditioning and backline coach for Villagers Rugby Club 1st XV: January 2007 – September 2011

∙ Assistant coach at KZN Duikers: July – October 2013

∙ Strength and conditioning/assistant coach, Collegians Rugby Club 1st XV: February 2013 – August 2014.

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