Sports Science Alert (SSA) #028
Can What Your Wear Make A Difference?
For the teams in the Rugby World Cup starting next week, it is the culmination of years of preparation. Many hours have been put into maximizing performance through physical and skill training. However, you may not realize that there has also been a lot of time and effort spent designing team uniforms that can potentially give another advantage.
The Australian team jersey has been designed and tested by the ASICS Institute of Sport Science in Kobe. The design is lighter in weight, but still durable, while limiting the ability to be grabbed without restricting the movement of the player.
Whatever advantage comes from wearing them, it may be minimal when playing the South Africans. The South African team has also had their jerseys redesigned by the same team in Japan. Their tops have also been made to be lighter, with a smooth surface making it harder to keep hold in a tackle. Something different to the Australians, there is Super-Grip silicone on the chest of the jersey to aid in holding onto the ball.
Will these scientifically designed jerseys really be beneficial? If the slippery material results in just one missed tackle resulting in a try, or the super grip top results in one less dropped ball, then it would be all worthwhile. Looking and feeling good on the field also adds a psychological benefit to the players. Fans love seeing their team win, though what they probably notice most of all is what they look like. After the launch of the new South African jersey, the biggest response was about the placement of the springbok logo on the sleeve!
It is great to see the practical application of sport science and teams striving to improve, though it occurred to me that there were similarities to what happened in swimming a few years ago. A new outfit was developed that gave such an advantage that world records were readily broken and FINA was subsequently forced to restrict such outfits. Due to the nature of rugby, I know we won't be seeing world records come of this, but if science was to design a jersey that would make significant and measurable improvements in play, they one day these uniforms may be deemed illegal.
Related Content on Topend Sports