Esher head coach Ollie Smith is preparing for a new assault on the National League One next season by learning from friends in the southern hemisphere.
Almost immediately after the season ended, Smith jetted off to New Zealand for a friend’s wedding – but he was taking time out to shadow the coaches of the Crusaders.
Christchurch-based Crusaders are the most successful rugby union outfit in the country winning seven Super Rugby titles, and playing in front of crowds regularly exceeding 35,000.
It is from this successful set-up that Smith hopes to pick up new ideas that can help Esher, who finished second in the table last term, take that extra step up the ladder and into the Championship.
“I was thrown in at the deep end at Esher with very little coaching experience, so I was coaching how I thought I had been coached,” he said.
“I am always learning, you never stop learning and so it was good to spend a few days in a different environment with the Crusaders.
“I wanted to see the different ways of how they conduct themselves in technical aspects of coaching.
“Are they technically based? Do they play lots of games? Are they conditioning based games? How do they structure their training schedules?
“There are so many options. Is training individual based, or is it more team related? Is it split into backs and forwards?”
Smith will be learning from Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder – a veteran of 71 Super Rugby appearances, as well as 25 appearances, including 14 as skipper, for the All Blacks.
However, since Blackadder took over the coaching in 2009, Crusaders’ Super League trophy streak has run dry.
But Smith believes the name alone is enough to inspire his charges.
He said: “If I come back to Esher and say the Crusaders did this and that, and an All Blacks skipper says this or that, the guys’ eyes would light up and their ears would prick up.
“You bring an ex-player down, you know he could be a terrible coach, but because he’s been there and done it, the players listen to him.
“It’s all about passing on expert experience and I have been able to do that a lot this year from my time with the Leicester Tiger, but I keep learning.”