A description of the profiles of U18 rugby players who attended the Craven Week tournament between 2002-2012

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Rugby union has rich tradition in South Africa with the national team having won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and 2007. The major rugby nations South Africa competes against have clearly defined rugby talent identification (TID) and development (TDE) pathways. These pathways are not as well described in South Africa where the South African Rugby Union (SARU) has adopted a model of identifying talent at an early age through competition. For example, national competitions occur at U13 (Craven Week), U16 (Grant Khomo Week) and U18 (Craven Week and Academy Week) levels. Previous research on talent identification has highlighted the pitfalls of early talent identification. In particular different rates of maturation can influence the manifestation of talent. In a collision sport such as rugby the early maturers have a distinct advantage. An added complexity in the South African context is the need to provide an appropriate development environment within which transformation can take place. At all levels in South African professional rugby, white players dominate team selection. One of the reasons suggested for this dominance is the physical size of white players compared to their black and mixed race (coloured) counterparts. Rugby is a contact sport and physical size is associated with success, so the need to quantify physical difference between racial groups at a junior level over time is important. The first objective of the thesis was to examine the profiles of U18 Craven Week rugby players to gain insight into the development pathway from U13 to U18. A second aim was to understand factors influencing transformation by measuring the physical profiles of the various racial groups over time. The thesis consists of two studies. The specific objective of the first study was quantify how many players in the 2005 U13 Craven Week (n=349) participated in the subsequent U16 Grant Khomo and U18 Craven Week. The study showed that 31.5% of the players who played in the U13 Craven Week, were selected to play at U16 Grant Khomo Week and 24.1% were selected for the U18 Craven Week tournaments. Another interpretation is that 76% of the players selected for the U13 tournament did not play at the U18 Craven Week tournament. The objective of the second study was to determine whether there are differences in body mass, stature and body mass index (BMI) between racial groups in U18 Craven Week players. Another objective was to determine whether these measurements changed between 2002-2012. Self-reported body mass and stature were obtained from U18 players (n=4007) who attended the national tournament during this period. BMI was calculated for each player. The body mass, stature and BMI of these players in South Africa were significantly different between racial groups. For example, white players were 9.8 kg heavier than black players, who were 2.3 kg heavier than coloured players (p<0.0001). The body mass of all groups increased from 2002-2012 (p < 0.0001). White players were 7.0 cm taller than black players, who were 0.5 cm taller than coloured players (p < 0.0001). The stature of players did not change significantly during the study period. The average BMI of white players was 0.9 kg.m⁻² greater than black players who were on average 0.7 kg.m⁻² greater than coloured players (p<0.0001). The BMI of all groups changed similarly over the study period. To conclude, these results question the effectiveness of the u13 tournament in identifying talent and providing an effective development pathway to U18 Craven Week. The SARU also needs to be aware of the ongoing disparities in size between the racial groups playing rugby at an U18 level in South Africa. These size differences may have implications for transforming the game and making it representative of the South African population.