Rugby team try out new workouts

Rugby team try out new workouts

For many regional rugby sevens outfits, training revolves around crashing into foam pads or team-mates and repeating intricate passing moves to the point of exasperation.

Not for Singapore. Especially not when a historic SEA Games gold is at stake.

The team have turned to the disciplines of wrestling, muay thai and sprinting to gain even the slightest edge over their rivals.

So when 100kg prop Reiner Leong executes a roundhouse kick or speedster Bryan Ng re-learns the positioning of his feet for a 40m dash, it is done with a purpose in mind.

"The boys can get bored by conventional training day after day, so trying other sports not only keeps things interesting but also develops all-round skills," said Singapore coach Izzy Kadir, who

played in the bronze-winning sides at the 1995 and 2007 Games. "The world's top teams like New Zealand and South Africa keep improving because they always find new ways to train, something we must do too if we're serious about the game."

Cross-training began for the Reds eight months ago, when national wrestlers were roped in for their expertise in balance and technique. For instance, the players were taught to angle their bodies to fall and protect the ball when tackled.

Twisting one's shoulder by several degrees on a gym mat may not seem like much, but the results are showing on the field.

When Izzy, 39, took charge two years ago, Singapore were 12th in the Asian Sevens Series. Last year, they shot up to a creditable seventh, and are joint-favourites for the SEA Games gold alongside the Philippines.

The team - who all juggle work or school commitments with rugby - are also learning to shrug off tackles and bring down opponents from local muay thai fighter Mohammad "Aby" Shahlan.

Winger Samuel Teo, one of the team's youngest players at 20, said: "I have a better understanding of close-battle techniques as the same core muscles are used for muay thai and rugby. Securing the ball in breakdown situations is crucial in our game."

Fitness levels have moved up a notch too, thanks to weekly workouts with national 100m record holder UK Shyam.

The SEA Games silver medallist has dispensed with the squad's typical 10km runs, focusing instead on short sprints with loads on their backs, hurdle jumps and medicine ball throws. After all, rugby sevens is mainly about exploiting speed and space against seven opponents on a full-sized pitch.

Shyam, 38, said: "I'm helping to correct their individual flaws, like the way their arms swing or how they apply force when they begin to sprint. Bigger players are good for the fifteens game but, for sevens, it's a disadvantage as pace and agility is affected."

The 20-man squad will put their new-found skills to the test at the Iskandar 7s tournament in Johor next week, followed by a training tour in Perth or Hong Kong.

It has been a marathon of sorts, with the finish line set at Choa Chua Kang Stadium, venue of the SEA Games tournament on June 6 and 7.

Izzy said: "The team have put in so much effort to learn new sports and techniques. Now, it's time to put all that work with a rugby ball and get our hands on a gold medal."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 18, 2015.
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