The FNB Madibaz rugby team will be looking for a mental edge when they begin their Varsity Shield campaign next week, thanks to input from high performance coach Rob Yates.
A top-level consultant who specialises in mental conditioning, Yates has been concentrating on this aspect to help the Nelson Mandela University outfit move to the next level.
Madibaz, who finished top of the log last year, will play their opening match against University of KwaZulu-Natal at the Madibaz Stadium in Port Elizabeth on February 14.
The arrangement with the varsity team came about when Madibaz Sport rugby manager Ntsikelelo Ngcakana noticed the work Yates had done with the Wits football team in Johannesburg.
“The Wits side went from losing at the USSA [University Sport South Africa] tournament to second place in the Varsity Cup in just 14 weeks and Ntsikelelo contacted me because those are the sorts of results he’s looking to achieve at Madibaz,” said Yates, who is based in Johannesburg.
“I am working with the players to become the very best version of themselves. In rugby specifically we want to raise their mental threshold by 40 to 90% over this season.”
He added that much of his approach was to talk about and commit to an all-round standard of excellence
“I work with them to understand their world to a much higher degree and to understand how they can leverage their given talents and mitigate the impact of things which we identify can limit their performance.
“This is obviously different for each player and that is the most challenging part of what I do.”
Yates, who grew up in the United Kingdom and moved to South Africa seven years ago, was a professional kayaker before a serious injury ended that career.
“When I stopped kayaking professionally I found that I couldn’t get my mind back to where it needed to be,” he said.
“I spent years learning how to get my mental state to a better level than it had ever been and achieving more than most do. I then started offering this to others.”
He felt he could bring an external perspective to the Madibaz team this year.
“To date the response from the players and management has been brilliant and engaged.
“They want to be better and are willing to move heaven and earth to achieve it.”