fast little loans
WE’RE close to the end of June so we’re pretty close to being halfway through the year and, for that matter, the rugby season. For some, by the time the end of November arrives they’ll be praying for a few weeks off. But that’s become the norm, hasn’t it?
While it’s not likely more rugby is being played now than a few years ago, what is concerning, to some, is that younger men are playing rugby at a much higher intensity level and the fear is that rugby careers will end prematurely.
A top player in South Africa right now, if he stays injury-free, could finish the year with as many as 30-35 games behind him when the maximum any player should play, according to leading Joburg-based sports physician Jon Patricios, is around 24.
Before the international break for the Tests against England, a Springbok would have played 13 Super Rugby games, then he’d have played three Tests against England before returning to Super Rugby this weekend. Add in three more games before the play-offs, and another two in the play-offs and we haven’t even got to the Rugby Championship – and six more games. Already that player would have featured in 27 high-intensity matches before he’ll be expected to turn out for a handful of games in the Currie Cup and then it’s the end-of-season tour to Europe.
But Patricios says it’s not so much the number of games that worries him, but the fact there is no off-season nowadays. “The planning all-round is not good – somehow the season needs to be structured better to allow players more time to rest and recuperate.
“The top guys play almost every weekend and then they still have to tour to Europe at the end of the season. They’re left with very little time to rest. I know everyone is different and it’s really difficult to measure these things, but we’ve found that sportsmen need between eight and 12 weeks of doing nothing except resting and rehabilitating themselves. This would allow them to freshen up mentally and physically for the next season.”
Patricios feels the Boks won’t be too badly affected this year as there was no November tour to Europe last season because of the World Cup. But even so, injuries have struck down several players this year: the Lions at one stage had 12 first-choice men on the sidelines, the Stormers have lost key figures Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen and the Cheetahs have had to do without Juan Smith. At the Bulls and Sharks several players have missed games because of injuries and during the Bok-England series several players were struck down by injury.
“The problem is that players will always be more susceptible to injuries and burn-out when they’re not well rested. Performance is invariably affected as well,” says Patricios.
He says that the demands on young men such as Eben Etzebeth and Marcell Coetzee, who are among just a handful of 20-year-olds who’re playing high-intensity rugby almost every weekend, will eventually be telling. “Careers are going to become shorter and shorter. I don’t expect too many guys who’re starting out now making it at the highest level when they’re in their 30s.”
One player who appears to be done with the demands, mentally and physically, of international rugby is Fourie du Preez. At last year’s World Cup, the scrumhalf was just 29 years old and if we’re honest, he had reached his peak two to three years before that, possibly even at the 2007 World Cup.
“The players are going to lose out in the long run, but so will teams’ performances,” says Patricios. “What we need is an international season to run from March to October. The rest of the time should be for rest. But it’s not medical people who the IRB listen to, it’s the administrators and sponsors who matter.” – The Star