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‘FNB Varsity Cup teams have become more professional’

FNB Varsity Cup

FNB Wits strength and conditioning coach Jacques ‘Chop’ du Randt has been involved in the FNB Varsity Cup since 2008 and was a member of the Varsity Cup Dream Team’s management staff in 2017.

As a player, Du Randt represented the old Vaal Triangle at the U18 Craven Week in 1994 and 1995 and played junior provincial rugby for the Valke and Leopards.

He also represented North-West University (2001-2002) and RAU (now the University of Johannesburg) between 2003 and 2005. asked him …

What does your job entail? I oversee all the physical development needs and performance of the six high-performance sporting codes at Wits. In rugby, my role includes programming for gym and field conditioning, collecting and analysing GPS data, and planning physical components of the week in line with the head coach’s needs. I also periodise nutritional and recovery needs, looking at a player’s individual needs and liaising with the medical team. The final task is to provide feedback and report it to the coaching staff.

What’s the most satisfying thing about your job? The fact that every day is different and every season has new challenges and ideas. I also enjoy seeing the players daily – working with them to achieve a goal and seeing the satisfaction on their faces when they achieve it. Then in the long term, bumping into a player who you worked with, in the mall, meeting their wife and kids, and seeing that they are successful in life. Turning on the TV on a Saturday and seeing players you worked with living their dreams in a provincial or Springbok jersey is a great feeling.

How has the FNB Varsity Cup changed over the years? Teams have become more professional. All teams are preparing a lot better and the margins are much smaller. For me, all 10 varsities in this year’s competition put their players through proper, well-planned professional pre-seasons and this can be seen in the quality of rugby they have produced. The Varsity Cup has become an established brand and has been a stepping stone for many players and coaches to reach the next level. And if you look at the current CVs of the head coaches in the Varsity Cup you can see that the level of coaching and investment by the universities has definitely increased over the years.

How has your preparation changed over the years taking the FNB Varsity Cup’s regular innovations into account? The world of rugby and sports science is always evolving. Varsity Cup’s innovations also keep us interested. We discuss the new innovation, look at data from previous years and try to anticipate what impact it will have on the game. For example, will it increase the ball-in-play time? Will we need to condition our players a bit differently so they can handle the new demands of the game? Will it require a better defence system or can we use it to our advantage to score more tries? I think of the nine-point point-of-origin try, having two referees on the field, the power play where a team had to play with two players less on the field for a couple of minutes – 13 vs 15. All of those things influenced our plans for the season and added to the excitement.

What was it like moving from UJ to Wits in late 2018? [Laughs] I get asked that question a lot! They are two completely different environments with their own challenges but both are unbelievable institutions that I’m proud to be part of. I think change is good as we adapt when we face new challenges and that’s how we grow. But my focus has always been on making the player better no matter what environment I’m in. I will always give my best at that moment. I did a quick calculation the other day. I had 86 Varsity Cup games with UJ and 30 with Wits to date. That’s 116 game days and with 22 or 23 players per game that’s a lot of opportunities I’ve had to try and positively influence a player on a game day. I do believe that we are always at the place we are supposed to be at the time.

Interview by S’fiso Nyawo


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