What goes into an away match in the Varsity Cup

FNB Varsity Cup

The FNB Varsity Cup season finally got underway, with the home teams enjoying three out of four victories this week. The games continued in traditional FNB Varsity Cup fashion, where a lot of passion, courage and entertainment was out on display, where sadly there had to be winners and losers.

The big match feature was between 2018 champions, the FNB Maties and FNB Wits all the way at the majestic Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch. FNB Maties showed once again that this season they will be a force to be reckoned with, when they buried FNB Wits 33-17.

In such matches however, a lot of preparation comes into play, months before the FNB Varsity Cup season commences. The focus however the week prior to an away team travels is slightly unique.

FNB Varsity Cup got an opportunity to hear about the typical approach most traveling teams would take the week before a big away game from “coach on the move” sports scientist, Simpihiwe Nkosi.

“Players would get their schedules ahead of the week, where the focus would be tactical periodisation due to the commencement of the season. The sessions would include light gym sessions that focus on power and maintenance of the work done in preseason. The planning will also be around the temperature, time and the altitude of where the match is set to take place. It is also important to get the players into the correct sleeping patterns, where they will be able to get sufficient rest ahead of training sessions.”

“In terms of arrival, ideally the team will look to arrive two days before the game and try train around the same time the game will take place, in order to acclimatize to the conditions.”

“Nutrition is also equally important, where players would look to up their carbohydrates intake about 3 to 4 days before the game. On game day however the last meal must be had about 3 to 4 hours before kickoff, with foods that contain sugar and starch being avoided about 30 minutes before kick off because they can lead to players getting dehydrated very quickly during the course of the game.

“It is also of vital importance to spread meals in small portions throughout the day, when the players are in season. Fatty foods are to be avoided completely as they slow down the digestion of food.

“On game day, the team will have a breakfast that will contain all the right nutrients needed for the day, that are mentioned above, as well as a lunch. Bare in mind that all the carbo loading takes place at least 3-4 days before in order to avoid an overload on match day. The team a few moments before the kick off will warm up through stretches and running through their patterns.

“After the game, the players will be taken for a post match stretch and warm down, followed by an ice bath to assist with the recovery process. The following day will usually be a day off for those that played in large periods of the game or a light session in the pool. Those that haven’t played would be given a programme that emulates the game, just to give them a run that will keep them sharp and in peak condition. Players with injuries and niggles would then be attended to by the medical staff.

“There are other methods of recovery post match that include massages, hydrotherapy, compression garments, foam rolling, and active recovery. It is also important to assess the psychological aspect as players go through a lot through out the game. Sleeping patterns and the right nutrition are vital once more in the players recovering well. A day off the next day is usually seen as the best option for those that were heavily involved in the match,” Simpihiwe Nkosi concluded.

So in essence, it is important to include the scientific part of sport, which improves the performance of athletes while reducing the likelihood of injuries. It incorporates physiology, psychology, nutrition, sport technology and performance analysis. The game of rugby is one that keeps evolving, so it’s vital to keep up in order to get the best possible results from the athletes.