This week’s Setanta Student Story features Pieter Terblanche. Pieter previously worked with the senior Sharks and is currently coaching the Sharks academy. A recent graduate of our MSc in Performance Coaching, Pieter has over 20 years’ experience in professional sport particularly within rugby union. Below, he provides an insight into his career and journey to date.

From Biokineticist to S&C Coach

Pieter’s journey into professional sport began in the late 90s, qualifying as a Biokineticist and beginning his employment with the University of Pretoria with his focus mainly in supporting patients in their recovery from brain injuries before moving into sport.

“I soon found myself working with athletes in my spare time, helping them to improve performance,” he notes. “I started helping University of Pretoria Tennis and soon supported the national athletes in tennis testing and conditioning. This sparked a passion within high-performance. I completed my CSCS through the NSCA in 2001 to upskill myself and enter the field of S&C.”

An opportunity soon became available with the Blue Bulls Company, a professional rugby union club in South Africa, to assist Junior professional players and academy players with rehabilitation and S&C.

“I was privileged to work for over a decade at the Blue Bulls, currently called the ‘’Bulls’’. Our multi-faceted team of performance staff grew from one person doing everything from Rehabilitation, Nutrition, Recovery, return to train and play and S&C to where it is now with specialised roles across the department.

This was the foundation phase of my career and I soon realised this was my passion, but also my purpose in life. It also sparked the desire to personally upskill and continue innovating in the area. Our knowledge base in South Africa, in terms of strength and conditioning, was quite limited.”

Following these early experiences in his career, Pieter began to specialise in both youth development and speed development.

“Both of these became areas of specialisation for me, and this triggered my love for research and innovation. I found myself researching, networking, and developing knowledge and skill to optimise these variables in sport. I soon realised that athletes needed a wide range of development on and off the field, and with our diverse cultures and backgrounds in South Africa, this become a liberating new journey of discovery of talent identification and development.”

2011 provided a new opportunity for Pieter as he joined The Sharks rugby union club, in the role of Academy Strength & Conditioning Manager and Speed Development coach for all professional players. Throughout his time at the Sharks, continuous improvement and learning has remained a priority.

“I completed a range of courses during this time span, focusing on areas such as speed development, becoming a Performance Specialist, speed development, Coaching Facilitating and becoming a World Rugby Educator in S&C just to name a few.”

Studying with Setanta

It was during his time working with World Rugby that Pieter became aware of Setanta.

“I was amazed by the quality, depth, and scope of their knowledge within the area of rugby specifically. I wanted to know more, and completed every course developed by Setanta within the World Rugby framework. Therein I learned about the pathway to continue upskilling within the field.

“I had been investigating a variety of master’s programmes but couldn’t find the perfect combination of applied research and knowledge with blended learning. In 2019, I came across the MSc in Performance Coaching from Setanta. From the first lecture, I was captivated by the advanced knowledge and practical application presented for sports performance.”

The combination between research and application allowed Pieter to implement the learnings within his own coaching practice.

“The fact that every module integrated research-based, practical, applied information and research made the programme stand out from I anything I had previously enrolled in. The up-to-date and relevant topics covered in the programme, including performance nutrition, psychology, data management, qualitative movement, and conditioning, provided the knowledge and tools to critique methods and technologies out in the marketplace that can optimise our current program and delivery.”

Future Aspirations

‘Coaching the Coach’ is an area that Pieter is especially passionate about, along with progressing the field of S&C in South Africa. He is actively involved in development of the South Africa S&C Association.

He recommends the MSc in Performance Coaching to any coach that wants to further their own knowledge and practice.

“Working with the modern athlete, should it be amateur or professional, a demand for evidence-based information and applied skills is essential. I would highly recommend anyone wanting to understand the practical applied principles in coaching, to enrol for this program.

The ‘’hard and soft’’ skills attained from this program will not only assist in developing your athletes further but will equip the coach to optimize learning and retention so that performance outcomes can be achieved earlier and more consistently.”

You can learn more about the MSc in Performance Coaching here.