Dan has a very genuine personality and this was evident in the way my son responded to both his style of coaching and his man management ability. Joey was at ease with Dan and knew where he stood. Dan made it clear what Joey needed to do to gain a starting position in the team and gave him great direction to improve his chances to become a professional rugby player. I did think at the time that it was not only Joey, but the whole team, who would have gone to their personal limits out of respect for Dan Van Zyl.
Watching my son and the team develop under Dan’s guidance it was clear that Dan has a very shrewd rugby brain, a very deep and broad knowledge of the tactics and nuances of the game that covered all positions on the field. In tandem with this vast knowledge, it was clear that Dan had a very clear and precise manner in how he passed on this information to his players in relation to how he wanted them to progress as individuals, as units and as a team.
Over subsequent years I have had the privilege of working with Dan in various capacities on a personal level and I have found that what I saw as a father from the side-lines a few years ago to be true as a colleague of Dan’s.”
Constantly in a good mood he was a pleasure to train under and I can not thank him more for what he has done for my game and helping me achieve my dream of being a professional rugby player for my home province. ”
I was at training sessions and toured the United Kingdom with his teams. Dan also took time to get to know his players as individuals and I could see the players really appreciated this. This individual support led them to always go the extra yard for him.
Arriving on the Leinster Youth team was the pinnacle for most of these young mens careers. More went on to become Senior Leinster and Irish internationals, which always gave Dan personal satisfaction and was testament to his absolute commitment to his young charges. However what impressed me more was when you were talking to Dan he could list off lots of players who he coached and where they are now and who they are playing with. He never forgot their great efforts.
Dan was also an excellent coach during this period for the Metropolitan Area where he was involved in identifying players from 15 upwards that might be suitable for the Leinster pathway. He would have dealt with hundreds of aspiring young players and their families and he always had a word for them. He dealt with them all in a warm and courteous manner.”
At RAI there is a girls TY programme which is run on a full and part time basis where players can train full time or on a part time basis (once a week or during midterms)and a full time rugby academy. RAI also have a dedicated girls coordinator Caoimhe Morris. Another positive step forward in girls rugby is how the RAI will be using past players such as myself to mentor the girls on elements of the game, having being a winger I would be working with girls who play in the back 3. I think is a fantastic step forward as it looks to pass on knowledge and skills learned from these players during their careers to the aspiring players. It is a simple but brilliant idea. Quality mentoring will greatly enhance these players opportunities in the game.
The content of the programme is line with long term player development regarding tactical, technical, physical, psychological and lifestyle aspects. Players in the RAI develop many skills and abilities during the time including many off the rugby pitch also. The RAI also offers day camps for players looking to upskill in their game, the TY programme and a full time academy.
My experience of the Rugby Academy is a hugely positive one, whenever I am there is always a hive of positive energy as players are being coached and developed on and off the pitch, what always strikes me is the players always enjoy the challenge and have smiles on their faces. It is clear to see Dan and Johan's passion for the game and their rugby philosophy will have a positive impact on the girls and boys of the RAI.