'Dancing' rugby players feel the rhythm!

JOCELYN SOLOMONS based her thesis on rhythmic movement in rugby. The Stellenbosch University student explains what the study entailed and its three important outcomes.

I am extremely passionate about sport and a professional dancer, which is why I studied sports science.

I was watching a rugby game one day and noticed the similarities between rugby players and dancers.

I would often hear comments like 'he had quick feet' and 'look at how he danced around the defender'. I tried playing sevens myself to experience being a 'dancing rugby player'.

I then investigated the effect of a rhythmic movement intervention on selected bio-motor skills of rugby players at the Stellenbosch Rugby Academy and Western Province Rugby Academy.

The intervention stretched over two eight-week periods (16 weeks in total), with two one-hour sessions per week.

The rhythmic movement sessions were scheduled into and alongside the players' normal rugby conditioning sessions.

Each session consisted of a 10-minute warm-up, 40 minutes of rhythmic movements (these moves were specifically taken from various dance styles such as contemporary, ballet, hip-hop and Latin) and a 10-minute cooldown. Progressively, the movements became more advanced and challenging.

The intention was not to teach 'choreography' but to choose specific movements and combinations of movement which closely mimic rugby movements, and do this to music.

Furthermore, the purpose was that the content of each session target at least two bio-motor skills (flexibility, dynamic balance, agility, power, and local muscular endurance were tested).

The study revealed three important outcomes:

  • The intervention was effective in improving some bio-motor skills.
  • Where improvements did occur, it could not be (solely) attributed to the intervention; and
  • There is potential for positional group improvement in the performance of selected rugby bio-motor skills if the intervention is designed with positional groups in mind.

The results from this study highlighted the importance of further research on the effect of rhythmic movement on rugby bio-motor skills.

- As told to Savannah Connacher