While most Ospreylians would have been passionately cheering on the Welsh national squad during the recent autumn international series, one member of the region's Community Rugby team had a foot firmly in the Springbok camp when South Africa came to Cardiff last month.
Dan Owens, part of the award winning Coach Development team at the Ospreys, spent a week living with the Springboks as their Liaison Officer throughout their time in Wales, enjoying a unique opportunity to experience life at the very highest level of international rugby.
Based with the touring party at the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff, Owens was immersed into their environment for the duration of their visit, making himself at their disposal 24/7.
His role was to ensure that everything on the ‘Boks work programme for the week was catered for, including arrangement, confirmation and/or alteration of training venues, logistics to and from training and provision of extra-curricular activities such as golf at Vale of Glamorgan or watching the opening stage of the WRC in Cardiff Bay.
On match day, it was his duty to ensure that provision was made for all their requirements at the Millennium Stadium. This included dressing of the changing room, ensuring that drinks, meals, elevators, in fact everything they would need, were available at the appropriate times.
However, Owens got far more from the experience than simply being a go-between for the South African party, observing the practices of international teams and the management of a squad and environment on tour in order to develop his own personal experience in coach development.
Now back at his desk in Llandarcy Academy of Sport, Owens said it had been a wonderful and hugely beneficial experience. He explained:
"It was a privilege and an honour to be asked to work with the South African Rugby Union touring party during their Autumn International visit to Wales.
This role was a personal opportunity to gain insight into the operations of an international squad and to assist in the management of their work programme.
“It allowed me opportunity to broaden my knowledge and experience base, and also develop my ability to work in high pressure environments, and manage the personalities and requests of the SARU to ensure a comfortable and productive time in Wales.
“The cultural difference between Welsh and South African life is considerable. Immersing myself in their culture played a big part in my success throughout the week. It was a massively positive experience, and the interaction with their management team has given me some memories I will never forget, both personally and professionally.
“What I was pleased with is that coaching practices are no different across the globe than they are in Ospreylia, the only difference is that the players may be bigger, faster, stronger and higher skilled than the ones that the coaches I work with in my job may deal with. The use of conditioned games is something that has played a big part in our coach development programme this year, being derived from elements of the Ospreys training programme and I’m delighted to have observed the use of this form of training also in the South African camp.
“Through this experience I have grown as a person in my understanding of international culture and the wider rugby community.”