In the 1960’s, a Global Positioning System (GPS) device was first developed as a way to direct armed forces during times of war. In 1997 the GPS was first used on an athlete and since then, the GPS has been adapted to be of use in a variety of sports.

If you look carefully on the back of a Springbok shirt, you may be able to see a GPS device sewn just beneath the collar of the shirt of the player. The device is able to measure a number of physical factors on a player during an average rugby game. Through the data gathered by the device, sports analysts can better understand the physical nature of the game, in order to create a programme for players to use to prepare their body adequately for matches.

Numerous studies have been performed in professional games, tournaments and competitions in order to establish a general rule of thumb for the physical interaction on the field. Included in the list of physical measurable that a GPS device can detect in a match are: the distance covered, running speed, intensity of player impacts, and the amount of energy used.

The results from studies like these are able to give players insight into what it takes to play professionally and what aspects are important to work on in order to maintain a good fitness rate and to prevent injuries. Depending on the position of the player, different outcomes were found in the results.

Backline Players

• Impact – “Impact” is any physical interaction in a tackle, ruck or maul, or with the ground. A backline player may be faced with approximately 120 impacts per match.
• Running distance – A backline player can run between 7 and 7.5 kilometres during a match.
• Type of exercise in a match – Fitness is the most important factor for a backline player to work on as they spend a lot of time running.
• Tips – Focus on improving your conditioning and fitness in order to avoid injury in impact situations and to maintain your ability to run throughout the match, respectively.

Forward Players

• Impact – “Impact” is any physical interaction in a tackle, ruck or maul, or with the ground. A forward can be faced with approximately 300 impacts per a match and the majority often take place in the second half.
• Running distance – A forward can run anything between 5 and 7 kilometres per match, depending on their position. A loose forward is more likely to run the most out of all the forwards.
• Type of exercise in a match – During a match, high intensity exercise is predominant amongst forwards due to mauls, scrums and rucks.
• Tips – Conditioning and fitness is a vital component for forwards in order to handle the amount of impact involved in a game. Players can improve both these components by doing high intensity interval training (short bursts of intense exercise and longer periods of less-intense exercise).

General Play

• During a game, 70% of the movement on field is spent standing or walking; 25% on jogging; and 5% sprinting.
• The average distance spent sprinting or jogging in a game is 20 metres. The more dominant of the two is jogging but sprints do occur at least 30 times during a match.
• A player’s speed was shown to shift every three to four seconds.
• The second half of a match was shown to be harder on the body than the first half.

It is important to remember that these statistics are based on studies conducted on professional players and, while the trends remain the same regardless of what level is played, it only serves as a guideline and actual figures may vary for different age groups. The best way to understand how you, your team or your age-group is performing, is to buy a performance tracker that you can wear in your games and training. There are a variety of devices to use and it all depends on which elements of the game you want to measure and which device is most comfortable. For example, a watch that measures your fitness levels or a high intensity wrist band that measures your strength, power and endurance.