'Smart Ball' highlights FNB Varsity Cup halfback heroes

FNB Varsity Cup

Scrumhalves Clyde Lewis and William Rose were prominent as the ball-tracking technology introduced during the 2021 FNB Varsity Cup playoffs delivered insightful performance data.

Sportable, the sports tech company founded by three Capetonians, teamed up with sports equipment manufacturing brand Gilbert to introduce a ‘Smart Ball’ to the FNB Varsity Cup during the knockout rounds.

The tournament has earned a strong reputation for innovation and this was the first time the Gilbert x Sportable Smart Ball had been used in Africa.

The Smart Ball spat out team and players stats related to kicks and passes, providing instant, accurate data on events that would otherwise have required match footage to be manually coded.

Notable on the kicking front, FNB UP-Tuks went home with the trophy despite being the playoff team that fired the shortest exit kicks.

On average, FNB Maties (47.5m), UCT (43.4m) and NWU (42.1m) each launched clearance kicks that travelled for a net gain superior to Tuks’ 40.4m, perhaps underlining the coaching point that exit kicks must ‘go into the stands’ to limit quick throw-ins.

FNB UCT and FNB Tuks boasted the most hang-time on contestables in the playoffs and this may be why both teams advanced to the final – just reward for Ikeys halfback William Rose (who averaged 4.4sec per box kick) and Tuks scrum-feeder Clyde Lewis (4.3sec).

But where Rose clocked the longest average passing range (9m), perhaps based on FNB UCT’s preference for playing off 10 and launching from kick receipt, Lewis (and his backup, Johan Mulder) fed shorter passes (Lewis averaging 7m, Mulder 6.3m) to the Tuks heavies coming round the corner.

A disappointing campaign for the Stellenbosch juggernaut may be related to the pedestrian speed of Maties’ passes, travelling an average of 8.5m per second while UCT’s passes (10.2m/sec) had 20% more zip on them.

By Zelím Nel

– This article first appeared on SARugbymag.co.za