Photo: KIM LUDBROOK

World Cup rugby legend Bryan Habana has become the first player in the world to share his DNA information, giving a unique insight into his genetic power, endurance and recovery powers.

The release of Habana’s personal genetic information is part of a global challenge to rugby players across the world to have their DNA tested and analysed to improve training and sporting performance.

Springbok Habana, who plays for Toulon and shares Jonah Lomu’s record of scoring 15 tries in a Rugby World Cup, has been tested by British life sciences company DNAFit to help create the largest rugby genetic database in the sporting world. DNAFit has worked with a range of athletes to help boost their performance, including World Champion and former Olympic Champion Long Jumper Greg Rutherford.

Habana, 33, who has run 100m in 10.4 seconds, said: “The data will help the sporting world to break into new frontiers of training, preparation and injury avoidance, making players and teams more successful and opening a new realm of sports medicine.”

Setting the ambitious target of 1000 rugby samples genotyped for research and analysis by the end of 2018, Habana said he had released his personal genetic code and associated information “to encourage other players from around the world to do their DNA test and help build this very important database”.

Habana did a simple mouth swab test from DNAFit to collect a DNA sample, which looked at 45 genes known to determine power, endurance and recovery. Supported by independent research, the test used the DNAFit Peak Performance Algorithm, based on validated genetic variant scoring methods, to determine Habana’s personal genetic score for power/endurance response and other important information to assist training. Unsurprisingly, as one of the best wings in South African rugby history, Habana’s DNA revealed he is genetically pre-disposed to be a very well-rounded athlete.

“The power of personal genetics helps individuals reach their fitness and nutritional goals on the most personal level possible,” said DNAFit founder Avi Lasarow.

Lasarow added: “Bryan has a mixed power endurance ratio, with a score of 43:57, meaninghe has a nicely balanced genetic adaptation to both high intensity-low volume training and low intensity-high volume training methods.

There are obvious synergies between this genetic makeup and the demands placed upon him in his playing position. He has some genetic components that signal a faster recovery between workouts, and does not carry a raised risk of soft tissue injury on a genetic level.

“Of course, genetics is only one small part of the picture, but an important part nonetheless. This is a fascinating insight into how one of Rugby’s great players is made.”

Analysing his results and looking back at his career, Habana believes the information could have made a huge difference to his performance.

Hababa added: “As a legacy, I want other players and athletes to have the opportunity of understanding the makeup of their DNA and how best to train as a result. Looking at these results and what they say about my genetic makeup means that I probably could have pushed myself further in certain areas and who knows the difference this could have made?”

Already a decorated rugby superstar and World Cup winner, Habana understands the difference between winning and losing.

He said: “It's sometimes that 1%, the smallest of margins that can be the difference between winning and losing. This information and data gives you that edge.”

Realising the difference that this could have made in his own career, Habana has launched an initiative aimed at helping rugby players from around the world become better, faster, healthier and stronger players.

Habana added: “Through the use of science and understanding how we are made, we can develop the ability to create programs using DNA information that will bring out the best of us and change the way people train and possibly the way positions are chosen. Gathering these samples and hopefully many more, has the potential to make a huge impact into our understanding of how to truly unlock our full potential.”

Lasarow said: “South Africa has an exciting gene pool, known for developing world class athletes and we are delighted that Bryan has chosen DNAFit to be the custodian and genotyping partner in such an exciting initiative in the world of rugby.”

* DNAFit tests can be bought from £99 (R1 669) at dnafit.com.

Press Release adapted for IOL