Technology takes to the rugby field with a new ball that tracks everything from goal kicks to time between catching to passing.

The FNB Varsity Cup and Sportable have launched the world’s first smart rugby ball to be used in varsity rugby competitions in the country.  

According to the statement released by FNB Varsity cup, the ball provides insightful statistics throughout the match. A device inside the ball captures goals, restart kicks, lineouts, passes, possession, territory, ruck speed and kicks in play. The ball was developed in Europe and the United Kingdom and took five years before it was finally ready to be kicked around on a rugby pitch.  

In South Africa, the smart ball was put into practise in the final round of this year’s tournament. Some of the data it captured was the highest hang-time of the FNB UP-Tuks fullback, Zander Du Plessis. The data collected showed that Du Plessis’s kick type was up and under, covering a distance of 27m. The hang-time was 4.6 seconds, (rate per second) at half-time.  

Tuks Varsity Cup captain and flyhalf, Sango Xamlashe, told Wits Vuvuzela that there is a slight difference with the look and feel of the smart ball. It is smaller and has a good grip on the hands he said. “You can throw it around a little bit better. It’s definitely nicer for passing,” he added. He did have a few kicks with it and said it felt like it had a few corners in it, more distinct edges than other balls. 

“As a player, it would have been better for it to be introduced at the beginning of the season. That would have been better for being able to adapt and for everyone to actually get used to the feel of it. The stats would have been nice to have throughout the whole competition,” Xamlashe said. The new ball was introduced in the final two rounds, a critical phase in the competition. 

Xamlashe said it gives insight to certain tactics that can be used in future gameplay. “For instance, it allows us to measure a hang-time that balls go up. It would allow us to measure particular kicks and chases, whether they’ll be able to get there, how much time they would need to get to it,” said Xamlashe.  

In future, the smart ball will be used to instantly detect and alert referees of forward passes, helping with important calls during games. 

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits Rugby stadium. Photo: Mandisa Ntuli