Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Old Boys vs. Young Blood

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Sport
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By Riaan Marais

 

 
 

Old Boys: The 1995 World Cup winning team.

 

Were the rugby boys of old really that hard? How do the younger generations match up to their predecessors? Times have changed, and so has the game.

Francois Pienaar: Lifting the Webb Ellis trophy after winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

We look back at the 1995 Rugby World Cup and see Francois Pienaar lift the trophy. “I bet he could teach these new boys a thing or two”, would be a typical remark from the older rugby fans.

Many people like to believe that the guys that represented South Africa back in the good old days are much tougher than the current players, that somehow they were harder men. However, there are increasing factors that argue against that point of view.

Prior to 1995, rugby was a sport, not a profession, and players had jobs outside their rugby careers. Francois Pienaar himself studied law at the Rand Afrikaans University, and worked while playing for the Springboks and Transvaal. Today, he is the provincial executive for First National Bank in the Western Cape. The point being that rugby players back then couldn’t afford to be professional rugby players like the guys today.

Nowadays, rugby players earn substantial salaries, and during international off-seasons, they have the opportunity to play abroad and earn obscene amounts of money. It has become more than just sport to them, which means they have to be good at it to earn a living. And to be really good at rugby, you must have skills, brains and, above all, you have to be as tough as nails.

John Smit: The second South African captain to lift the Rugby World Cup trophy, twelve years later.

Just like the reasons for playing rugby have changed, so too has the game itself changed over the last fifteen years. Simple rules like picking players up in line-outs, or the four-step scrum initiation (crouch, touch, pause, engage), are small things that have changed the game. Some other rules are put in place just to help with the flow of the match, increasing the tempo of the game. This quickened pace requires players to be much more alert and aware of everything round them. “The game probably needs to recalibrate slightly and look at how we can put more emphasis on skills rather than power”, says Damian Hopley, CEO of the Rugby Players Association and former England international player in an interview with artslondonnews.co.uk .

Don Shaw, team manager of the Harlequins Rugby Union Team in the United Kingdom, raises the issue of physicality caused by the new rules. “The game has become a lot faster, and more competitive. Players have become a lot more athletic, much stronger, more muscular, and leaner”, says Shaw. Hopley confirms these views: “Inevitably, players are getting stronger, faster, bigger and more powerful”.

Pierre Spies: A fine example of international rugby’s evolution in recent years.

There are many international rugby players that can attest to Shaw and Hopley’s point of view. But there is one player that definitely stands out from a South African perspective, and that is Pierre Spies. This 194cm, 107kg Springbok and Blue Bull lose forward started his international test début in 2006, and has only improved since then. Due to health complications (a blood clot in his lung), Spies’s rugby career was almost cut short in 2007, but since his recovery he has gone from strength to strength. “When it comes to training, I never take shortcuts. I always train really hard”, says Spies about his sessions in the gym. It’s clear that the hard work pays off by looking at Spies manhandling Australian hooker Saia Faingaa in a recent Tri-Nations clash.     

 

 

Pierre Spies manhandling Faingaa

Young Blood: 2007 World Cup winning team.

Even though the rugby legends of fifteen years ago deserve praise for the way they played and what they achieved, things have changed. It’s not the same game they played back in the day, and match physicality is at an all-time high. The young bloods exercise differently, train with more intensity and treat what used to be a pastime as a career. Give them fifteen years and they will be the legends of 2025.  

Mini interview with Pierre Spies

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By Odette Kemp

Before the advent of Xbox and Playstation, children grew up with regular television games, such as Tetris and Mario Brothers. While DVDs and Blu-Ray are now taking over the market, it used to be dominated with video cassettes. In the same way, high-priced gym equipment has replaced the simple, old-fashioned forms of exercise.

Of course, each workout machine at the local gym has some special function designed for specific needs. One machine is for exercising your legs, while another will tone the muscles in your abdomen. The only problem is, whether you visit the gym or buy the equipment for home use, it is more often than not, quite pricey.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. All it costs is a quick trip down memory lane. With the help of some childhood toys, you’ll be ready to get back into shape in no time.

The Hula Hoop:

Though many are unaware of it, hula hooping dates back to ancient Egypt. Nowadays, it is a simple but effective form of cardiovascular exercise. The hoops used for these workouts are slightly larger than the children’s hula hoops, and customized for exercising purposes. However, the added weight makes it easier to use than normal hula hoops.

The benefit of working out with a hula hoop is that it increases your coordination and boosts energy levels. It also exercises your entire body, and it can be used in different ways if you want to focus on a particular area.

WAIST:

Place one foot in front of the other and shift your weight between your two feet, to move the hoop. This is easier than trying to move your hips in a circle. If you don’t have the time for an extended workout, this exercise will be sufficient as it exercises your whole body. It especially tightens your stomach muscles and burns fat in the waist area. You can do the same exercise around your hips instead of your waist.

ARMS AND LEGS:

Stretch your arm to the side and use it to swing the hoop in a circle. This motion helps burn body fat. You can do similar exercises with your legs, but it is best to lie on the floor for those exercises.

The Jump Rope:

Cheap and relatively simple to find, the jump rope has become quite useful as an exercise tool. If you intend to use a jump rope, make sure the handles are comfortable for your hands, and that the rope is the right length. The middle of the rope should be at the back of your ankles when you are holding the rope. An important thing to remember is that jumping rope can be a strenuous workout. Take breaks between each set, and make sure your sets aren’t longer than 25 jumps each. Do your jump rope exercises on a wooden or carpeted floor, or place an exercise mat on a concrete floor.

The basic jump is performed by swinging the rope over your head and skipping over it, in a forward motion, while keeping your feet together. Do not try any of the other routines until you are comfortable with the basic jump.

Once you master the basic jump, you can substitute it with the reverse jump, swinging the rope backwards instead of forwards. Another variation is the jogging-step jump, which is similar to the basic jump, except that you keep your feet apart and jump as if you are jogging.

The Playground:

Tina Vindum, owner of a California gymnasium, has some advice on easy exercises. In an article in Parents magazine, she explained some simple workouts that can be done in a children’s playground or park.

“SWING CRISSCROSS”:

When on the swing, lean back at an angle of about 45 degrees. Point your toes in the air in front of you, with your feet together and your legs straight. This is the starting position.

For the workout, move your feet apart until your legs form a V. Cross your legs at the calves for one count, keeping the swing as still as possible. Switch back to the V position, and then cross your legs again, with the other leg on top. Repeat this 12 to 15 times for an effective workout. The “swing crisscross” helps tone the abdominal muscles.

“JUNGLE GYM PULL-UP”:

If you want an exercise that focuses on the back and biceps, this will be very useful. Find a bar on the jungle gym that is 3 to 4 feet above the ground. Place your hands on the bar, shoulder-width apart. Slide your legs forward until your chest is under the bar. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart.

Now, pull yourself towards the bar, by bending your arms alongside your ribs. Straighten your arms. Perform this pull-up 5 times, at least when you start working out. Aim to do more each time, and work your way up to 12 to 15 sets.

“JUNGLE GYM STANDING PUSH-UP”:

Find a part of the jungle gym that is structured like a ladder, and leaning at an angle. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on a bar that is lower than your chest height. Lean forward, keeping your body straight and resting your weight on your toes. Bend your arms as if doing a regular push-up, then straighten them again. Do 12 to 15 sets.

With these exercises, you can become lean without your wallet doing the same. Not only that, but you have the chance to revisit your childhood, and have fun while getting fit. All in all, this is one reunion that should be worth it.