Peter Davies

My time at the New Zealand Sports Academy was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Playing rugby in New Zealand had always been a goal of mine and upon searching for ways to so this, I stumbled across the Academy and it met all of my expectations. Although I was only there for four weeks, I was able to improve my skills and fitness drastically due to the high level coaching from Darrel and the tough training regimen. Monday to Thursday at the Academy would consist of some tough weights sessions alongside skill, fitness and speed sessions, all of which enabled me to see a huge improvement in all of these areas over the 4 weeks. I was lucky enough to play a couple of games for Rotorua U21s as set up by the Academy. I even got to captain my last game which was an incredible experience. Being an international student I received position specific coaching sessions from Darrel while the domestic students attended class. This was invaluable as we covered many aspects including tackle technique, break down work, foot work and line out throws. Darrel also introduced me to the Maori style of running rugby, which emphasises the importance of handling and footwork (even if you’re a front rower), this has taken my game to the next level and I noticed a hige improvement in my attacking game upon my return to England. In addition to the rugby, the Academy also ensures you experience the Maori culture and the various other attractions of Rotorua. During my time here I was lucky enough to watch a Chiefs game, go white water rafting and experience the ‘Te Puia Geothermal Gite and Maori Village’ all of which were amazing experiences. The Academy was the highlight of my trip to New Zealand and I would whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to experience rugby in New Zealand.

Keanu Apperley

The NZSA helped me grow in all sorts of ways. Learning about my culture was the first thing! Being a Maori living in Italy for over 15 year, you start to lose most of it. The NZSA helped me by allowing me to study and learn different HAKAs. The most important thing that I achieved there was respect and how to be a leader which Jim and Darrel encouraged me every day to become one.

At NZSA we played what we had in front of us and this has helped me a lot as European rugby is all about structure. This is what I miss the most about New Zealand, the rugby! It even helped to play a bit of Rugby League , I was lucky that they had that there too. League forces you to use different skills that you never use in Rugby Union.

Since leaving the Academy, I have achieved a lot with my rugby;

-Bay of Plenty U20s

-Viadana Rugby (Pro rugby team in Italy)

-Italy U20s (6 Nations, JRWC South Africa)

-Northland Developement

I still play professional rugby over in Italy but in the off season I’m always up for a few games in New Zealand, looking to improve every day. I go back to play the rugby I love the most………….. Maori rugby

Glenn Philips

In 1999 I left school with no formal qualifications at all. Although, I had made a few provincial age group rugby teams so I applied for the New Zealand Sports Academy (NZSA). Luckily I was accepted into the second ever intake in 2000.

Over the two years I was at NZSA, we received world class coaching from international coaches and current and past All Blacks, including Jim who as the New Zealand Maori assistant coach and head coach of the Tongan World Cup team at the time. We were lucky enough to receive additional coaching from Matt Te Pou (Maori All Blacks Head Coach), Wayne Smith (All Blacks Assistant Coach and former All Black), Hika Reid (BOP Assistant coach and former All Black), Tony Brown (Highlanders and All Blacks), Rico Gear (Crusaders, All Blacks and New Zealand 7’s), Greg Feek (Crusaders, All Blacks and current Irish scrum coach) and Norm Hewitt (Hurricanes-captain, NZ Maori captain and All Blacks) who took us for weekly scrum practice.

The NZSA definitely enhanced my rugby skills and knowledge but the biggest impact it had on me was on my education. After returning from a semi-professional rugby opportunity in England (that Jim helped to organise), I decided to look at furthering my education. I applied to be a student on the Bachelor of teaching and Learning (Primary) programme at the University of Canterbury and Christchurch College of Education and was accepted as a result of my previous education completed at the NZSA. I completed my degree and managed to secure a teaching position in Rotorua. I taught in Rotorua for 9 years and was team leader for the last 2 years. During my time in Rotorua, I set up a primary school sports academy which was one of the first in New Zealand and it received national recognition because it was such an innovative programme. This academy was based on the NZSA model and Jim and Darrel were regular guest speakers.

Since completing my degree I have continued with my study, completing a post graduate diploma in Maori Education from MAssey University and the National Aspiring Principals Programme (NAPP). In 2015 I shifted to Opotiki to take up a Deputy Principal’s position. This year I am working on my last paper to complete my Masters in Maori Education.

The New Zealand Sports Academy and Jim in particular taught me to be mentally tough and not to look for any excuses. I honestly believe if it wasn’t for the NZ Sports Academy I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Billy Hicks

Billy HicksIn 2006 I enrolled into NZ Sports Academy to better my Rugby skills. I didn’t know what to expect but all I knew, I wanted to succeed in Rugby.

At the Academy, we lived and breathe Rugby…..literally! Starting 7am on the dot (there were punishments if you were one minute late) with Shaun Tata, we hit the gym with strength and core training all rugby related then by 9.15am we’d be all showered for a 15 min breakfast then straight into the classroom learning all rugby fundamentals. After Lunch we then hit the field for the rest of the afternoon working on fitness, drills, skill work, games, breaking down every little drill such as passing a ball and tackling.

This was all a huge shock to me. Darrel and Shaun (our coaching staff at the time) broke us in to pieces mentally and physically but taught us to learn to love the toughness. I cannot explain how much I enjoyed having them as a Coach pushing us to the absolute limit to get the best out of everyone. It truly amazes me how much knowledge they have of the game which they broke down into steps to give us a better understanding.

After graduating in 2007 at the Academy, I made move to Australia to succeed further in my rugby career with the Surfers Paradise Gold Coast Dolphins but really struggled to do so due to injury after injury. I got back into the gym for rehab and to focus on my weak points. Since day one at the academy I always loved being the gym, Smashing PBs, learning the correct form and techniques in lifting, and seeing great results in your body. Darrel and Shaun taught us how to look after our bodies from injuries and because of that, I had a speedy recovery.

By the end of my recovery, I decided to change codes and challenge myself with the discipline and dedication of Bodybuilding and Powerlifting.

  • 2013 – North QLD WFF Fitness model – 1st place
  • 2013 – Southern Hemisphere WFF – 5TH place
  • 2014 – QLD INBA Fitness model
  • 2015 – Australasia WBFF Muscle model – Top 20
  • 2015 – Central QLD Vector Powerlifting champion (Total 620kg)

With the mental toughness and dedication I inherited from the NZSA, I took in everything I’ve learnt into my preparations and succeed numerous times. I am a Scaffold Supervisor currently preparing for the Australasia WBFF Championship and hoping succeed to WBFF Worlds next year in Las Vegas. I strongly recommend anyone to join the NZ Sports Academy as it has had a huge impact on my life.

Curtis van der Heyden

My experience as a member of the New Zealand Sports Academy began in 2007, and an experience of a lifetime it was at that. I was an unestablished, inexperienced rugby player hoping to grow in knowledge and leave a footprint on the rugby world.

Upon joining I was informed that it was a full time course that required only a few key attributes of me… “hard work, commitment, honesty, and a whole lot of sweat.” It now dawns on me that it was a small price to pay for what I got out of it

The trainers we had at the time were Darrel Shelford and Shaun Tata, who I can not express to how much I enjoyed having them there to kick me in the backside and equally the amount of work they put in to getting the best out of us. The thing that amazes me the most about the coaching staff is just how vast their range of knowledge is. There doesn’t seem to be a thing they do not know about rugby and that quickly rubs off on the students.

Once I completed the programme I joined the Bay of Plenty Rugby Academy which lead to playing for representative sides such as;

Bay of Plenty Under 20s

Bay of Plenty Development

Bay of Plenty Steamers

Bay of Plenty 7s

I was then contracted to a club side in Dallas Texas before being contracted to a club side in Sydney Australia. All of which I accredit to the New Zealand Sports Academy

I am currently a firefighter in Rotorua and spend a lot of my summer times travelling with various invitational sevens teams and competing in tournaments worldwide.

Keanu Apperley-Sue – Italian under 20s

As a Maori Kiwi growing up in Italy for the last 9yrs I had and urge to go back to my roots both in a Maori and rugby sense. Not only did I get this at the NZSA but I got to grow as a person and realize that the Maori rugby culture is about building men and leaders of tomorrow.

In a technical sense  at the NZSA I learnt more about game management, reading & vision on the field, I also learnt more about the natural flair of Maori rugby & playing more on our natural instinct.

The thing that really impressed upon me was the hardness that Maori play their rugby and how contact was a challenge within a challenge.

The NZSA taught me how to be a professional rugby player, how to prepare, train, eat, recover & act in public and above all the NZSA taught me about “MANA” a very important Maori word with the closest translation in English being “Prestige”.

Since then with help of the year I spent at the NZSA I have been lucky enough to go on and play for Italy at the 2012 U20 World Cup and I am now fortunate to play rugby professionally in Italy.

Moehewa Armstrong

NZ Resident 18s -Assistant Coach , WaiCoaBay 17 -Head Coach , NZ Warriors – Talent Scout

The NZ Sports academy provides a pathway for young league players to develop their skills in a full-time programme that also provides them with an education. I have seen many players from the Bay of Plenty area improve as players and become more confident as people. This has come from Jim and Darrel who promote a disciplined and professional environment. I believe the academy provides support for many players to gain the skills and  knowledge necessary for a league or sports career.

St Aloysius College – NSW Australia

St Aloysius College ventured to NZSA in Rotorua , in April for a 7 day intensive training camp. The tour was a fantastic culture experience for the boys with highlights being , white water rafting , Luge rides, Polynesian spas and the traditional Haka welcome by the NZSA academy  boys. The players also learnt a great deal of knowledge on how to adopt the Maori philosophy of playing rugby. Coaches Jim Love , Darrel Shelford and Hika Reid were excellent in their presentations and coaching sessions with the boys. Special mention for Jeanna Love for the smooth running of all the logistics involved in an overseas tour. I would strongly recommended the NZSA to any rugby club or school rugby team.

Cheers Greg (Coach).

Amon “Jabu” Motloung –  South Africa

Jabu is a previous student of the NZ Sports Academy. Jabu has taken his experiences and inspirations from our coaches and made them his own. Well Done Jabu!!!

Since last year August I started working at a primary school here in my area, assisting with sport mainly rugby, coaching kids between the ages of 9 – 13 years old.

Most of the kids here had never played rugby or even knew what a rugby ball looked like. But a few months into this these kids have achieved great things, last year just a month after we started with the rugby the came 2nd in a provincial competition.

And this year they have already won two more competition, to date they have played 12 matches, winning 9, drawing 1 and losing 2. The most amazing thing is the fact that the school that I coach at has a mixed rugby team with boys and girls playing together, even though all other schools are boy’s only teams.

Two weeks ago one of our players, a girl was selected for the Blue Bulls u/16 girl’s team that will be playing against other provincial teams during the school holidays.

This has been an awesome achievement as her selection has motivated the others to work harder and even younger kids to join our school team.

This is Jabu and his team!!


Brian Johnson – coach Mold RFC Wales

June 2010

The coaching course offered by the academy provided me with an insight as to how rugby should be played and has equipped me with the tools to take the teams that I work with to new heights – from youngsters just starting their playing careers and needing to understand the basics to the seasoned campaigners in the Senior’s needing to be reminded of how simple the game should be played and why good techniques is so important. I learned so much in such a short time thanks to the excellent teaching styles of Jim and Darrel. Consequently, I would personally recommend a course at the academy both for coaches that have limited coaching experience as well for those with more extensive knowledge.

Ted Chapman –  Florida USA

June 2010

My experience at the New Zealand Sports Academy, while brief, is one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.  I learned a great deal about not only rugby but about the New Zealand and Maori cultures and will carry that with me wherever life and rugby take me.  The passion for the sport of rugby found in the coaching staff and all of the players at NZSA is infectious and has made me a better player and has and will continue to keep me committed to this amazing sport, both on and off the field.  Being a part of the New Zealand Sports Academy was one of the best experiences I’ve had.

I hope to, and have no doubt that I will, see players that I played with at the academy playing at the top level of rugby in the years to come.  You have an amazing program in an amazing area and I hope to one day make it back down to New Zealand.  Best wishes to you all!

Michelle Knight –  Jake’s Mum, Australia

May 2010

Hi Jeanna & Jim,

I just thought I’d drop you a line to express my gratitude in regards to Jake’s stay. We knew before he left that he had so much to learn, not only about rugby, but more importantly, about himself. He has definitely grown in that department. Just hearing him talk about his experiences, interactions and relationships that he built shows us that he got more out of this than we could ever have hoped for. He even showed us the Hakas that he learnt over there with confidence and pride. He has entertained us with funny stories & jokes and impressed his father with his knowledge of the game etc. He went to training with his father last night (Gary coaches our local Under 15’s side) and Jake took the team for a fitness and mental toughness session. Everyone was so impressed, even the team, although they were absolutely busted at the end of training.

Jim, you’ve made such an indelible impression on our son. Your influence, guidance and understanding of him has made a huge impact on his life. He speaks of you so highly and I know that he will continue to draw on the relationship that he developed with you for the rest of his life. I can never thank you enough for what you have done for him. I know that his rugby will benefit from your coaching and influence enormously, but his life and as a man, the confidence he needs to move forward in every aspect of his life is so much better because of your influence. THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart. I hope one day to be able to tell you that in person.

Please pass on our best regards and appreciation to everyone, particularly Darrel and Martin, again, Jake’s admiration and fondness is obvious with his stories. Also, the boys at Kahukura rugby club, much appreciated.

He is setting goals already, and high on his list is to return to the Academy next year. He has our full support. THANK YOU AGAIN, this has been the most wonderful, beneficial, life changing experience for him, one that he will never forget.

My sincerest best wishes to you all.

Andre Beukes

Head of rugby Brentwood Prep, Coach Basildon RFC, March 2010

Dear Jeanna,

I would just like to say how much I’ve enjoyed my visit to New Zealand and the NZ Sports Academy this Easter. Jim really engaged with me and taught me that the skill was more important than the drill! Famous words from a very famous man. He made it fun, interesting and realistic, so that I could break down the skill and understand it fully.

Seeing examples of what the players do everyday and be able to work with world-reknowned players were second to none.

Thank you, also to all your members of staff for having great patience when dealing with a very excited South African coach wanting to learn. Everyone made me feel very welcome and nothing was too much trouble.

I am looking forward to seeing you all again next year.

Duncan Jansen (20) Netherlands

March 2010

I spent three months at the NZSA and it was the best experience ever. If any rugby player wants to improve their skills, technique and fitness level this is the place to be.  Living rugby is what it is all about, in a professional environment
with support and guidance from the best coaches and performance trainers. The NZSA is based in Rotorua in the heart of the Bay of Plenty. There is a challenging rugby competition for every level. Being with the boys at the academy, I had a great time,
training everyday and at night training with our clubs. In the weekend we came across each other in club rugby which made it even more exciting. The academy has their own teams too, training at the academy every day with the same guys made our team really strong and during my time at the academy, we hadn’t lost a game.

Matt Cotton

Men’s Rugby Head Coach

June 2009

“Last year I set up the school’s first rugby team. The kids at the school hadn’t played rugby before so I thought it was important to get the fundamentals right.  I have had a passion in all my teaching life to find the best information so when I face the kids, they get the best deal.

Having heard good things about the Jim Love’s coaching academy, I enrolled. I found the week innovative and vital. It was an approach I had not seen before, but made so much sense that it has been very easy to translate it into my own coaching.

Jim breaks down every skill into its component parts. He puts it all into the context of the game, so you see exactly why you are doing what you are doing. In school, the kids want to know the reasons for everything, especially since rugby is not naturally their first sport. They have no idea about the nature of the game so my every explanation needs to be well thought through. There is no room for half truths or misinterpretation. Hence the fundamental, bottom up approach is so successful.

I have been used to learning by watching and then replicating. Jim’s approach is more powerful. You are “doing” the skills and learning the reasons for doing them. Therefore you are learning the skills in more depth.

On the course, once we had learned the skills, they were put into game scenarios. It showed how they could be useful in a game context and how they could be practised.

When I came back to school, I basically ripped up the original training plan and started again. I told the kids my approach and how the changes would make them much better players and they bought into it. We have made enormous strides and I am looking forward to being extremely competitive next season.

Looking back on the week, I felt Jim’s approach and feel for the people in the game was unique. He kept saying it was a simple game that too often complicated. He said that rugby was about balance and relaxation. When we need to use our energy, then we should use it.”

Josh Fox-Clark (18)

Flying out to NZ, I really didn’t know what to expect. However, in my short stay at the NZSA it has already passed my expectations and more. The NZSA runs a very slick and professional programme that aims to bring out the best in all its students as rugby players and as people and teach them valuable life skills for later life. All the lads at the academy were all very welcoming and tried their best to help you fit in and do all they can to help you.
At the NZSA we do weights and core every morning. After a short breakfast stop the domestic boys usually go to class with Shaun the tutor and we, the international boys, go with Darrel to practice skills that we feel we need to work on to improve our game.

After another short stop for lunch, the students usually go out to the fields for fitness, skills or sometimes both for a couple hours in the afternoon.

The Academy also provides a wide range of activities for its International students. These range from trips to the beach to quad biking around the hills at Taupo.

The home stays selected by the Academy all do their best to help the Internationals feel “at home”, and create a friendly comfortable environment.

As part of the course you we do Mau Rakau every Thursday afternoon to learn about Maori traditions and culture. This is very interesting and something we all look forward to.

Overall, even though my stay has been relatively short I feel that I have gained a huge amount, something that works me so hard but yet also gives me a lot of enjoyment and fun can only be truly positive!”

Angus Nixon (20)

Since mid February I have attended the NZ Sports Academy, in the 3 months so far I have gained a huge amount.
When I first flew into New Zealand I travelled straight to Rotorua where the Academy is based. Being in a different country, never mind another hemisphere is always a bit daunting and I didn’t know what to expect but from the very first morning I received a warm welcome. The staff were helpful and inviting and all the domestic students came up and introduced themselves by their own accord and showed me the ropes around the stadium.

From the first week until present the training has been hard but cleverly structured. We do get run into the ground on occasion but no one minds because everyone wants to improve. More relaxed skill and technique sessions allow for us to learn from the coaches and pick their brains on past   experiences on the pitch. What better way to learn then from people who have been where you strive to go.

As well as in the gym and on the practice fields the Academy experience offers more than physical and mental, rugby related progression the fellow students and I participate in Maori culture days and fun     activities throughout the Bay of Plenty. These help to enrich the week because intense rugby training   eventually leading to mental fatigue and physical overkill and the downtime allows us to relax and bond.

In conclusion, the Academy has provided a wealth of positive experiences, all involved have shown true hospitality, generosity and I can definitely say my rugby and character has seen great changes and I’m very glad I made the choice to come here.”

Kia Ora Darrel,

I just wanted to share and give credit to you, Jim and the team at NZSA for helping me with my life. I have recently completed the Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at WINTEC and would like to give thanks back to the Academy for helping me make the choice to seek higher education. I truly am grateful. I look forward to hearing from you and wish yous all the best.


Adrian Te Rangi

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“My experience at the New Zealand Sports Academy was amazing. Not only in terms of rugby, but learning, living, and being enveloped in the New Zealand way of life. Coming from America and living in a rugby culture, you realize what rugby is all about. The fast pace New Zealand style of rugby is unique. Anyone who is interested in playing rugby in a different country should not consider any other option; the New Zealand Sports Academy is the place to go.”

Timothy Lew, USA