One felt for Paul Roos at the start of the 2022 regular season. They had an unusually high number of players unavailable due to injury. In some respects it feels like they past that baton onto fellow Winelands school Paarl Gim. Who would have thought Gimmies could compete let-alone win convincingly without SARU identified key players Luca Bakkes (2), Liam Koen (10), PA van Niekerk (12) Janiel Losper (13), Logan Opperman (14) and even the very dependable Bernard Bladergroen (3) all out at the same time. Perhaps part of the answer is that Rondebosch were experiencing their own mare that affected their preparations for the match. Their Southern Suburbs neighbours Bishops were missing four against Strand including the top-rated Bruce Sherwood (12).
It’s not just in the Western Cape either. Grey missed the likes of Juanre Breitenbach (2), and Morne Diederichs (6) and JF van Heerden (6) going into their big game of the weekend, during which another huge stalwart Lukas Meyer (7) broke down.
Brandwag (Uitenhage) traveled across the Bloukrans River along the N2 Garden Route to George without four vital players for their David versus Goliath against the in-form Outeniqua Kwaggas.
In KZN, both Hilton and Michaelhouse played without their lead-by-example captains this weekend, while the Northwood captain’s season was already over quite some time ago. College are missing their two most deadly backs and Glenwood are without their own blitz finisher. Kearsney missed their scrumhalf and Westville their no.8, while Durban High School’s lineout woes continued without tall lock.
Garsies had a heck of time preparing for their high profile match against Monnas who in turn really had to test the backrow depth chart with four loosies out until July.
And there are plenty more examples.
It is hectic.
We all know rugby is a game of attrition and injuries are part-and-parcel of this contact sport but the casualty rate does seem extra high at the moment.
Simon Vickers, one of South Africa’s leading Strength and Conditioning coaches had this to add when asked for his opinion on whether the missing two years of rugby is having an impact on the high number of injuries now or if it is just the level of intensity being up one notch:
Definitely both, but mostly the fact that for two years the guys have had very minimal contact.
Most of the boys were under-15 the last time they had full season contact.
But make no mistake the physical side of the game has stepped up another level, boys are stronger and more conditioned than ever before.
As sports science evolves so the ability to make better athletes happens.