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Eating smart helped Boks stay fit and aggressive in Japan

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Coach Rassie Erasmus has often said that this season was the first time that he had seen so few players sitting out of training due to injury niggles

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“They taste so good ’cos they eat so good.” That was the tagline of an old TV ad for Farmer Brown chickens.

Fast forward to 2019, and it could be adapted for the Springboks to “They play so good ’cos they eat so good.”

South Africa physically dominated virtually all their opponents in their march to the Rugby World Cup title.

Eating correctly played a big part in maintaining fitness over the 20-week journey to the Webb Ellis Cup.

Coach Rassie Erasmus has often said that this season was the first time that he had seen so few players sitting out of training due to injury niggles.

And the lady who made sure that they got their sufficient intake of nutrients and ate well is the very first full-time dietitian with the Springboks.

Rigid taskmaster

Zeenat Simjee does not believe in being a rigid, tough taskmaster. A Registered Dietitian who hails from Johannesburg, Simjee told Independent Media that hooker Schalk Brits sometimes tries to take her arm when she offers him a finger. She said that each position would require a different nutritional guideline, but because she only joined the Bok set-up in May, she has had to look at the overall picture for now.

“I’m not very strict with them. If you had to apply a strict approach, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t even enjoy touring at all,” said Simjee.

“I do an 80-20 (policy) with the guys. Eighty percent of the time, we strive to make the best decisions, because at the end of the day, they are professional athletes. And 20 percent of the time, they can enjoy life!”

So, did the Boks just live on sushi and ramen in Japan? Not quite. In fact, they even ate some chicken biryani.

“The hotel staff were open to learning when it comes to the western side. The menus were created to allow Japanese cuisine that fit into the team’s requirements. They tried dishes like ramen, shabu-shabu and sushi. The team also enjoyed yakitori and gyoza.”

Simjee said that being part of the Springboks “was my ultimate goal”.

“I ended up doing my post-grad in sports nutrition, and I did my research in adolescent rugby, as I felt there was a gap there. I really wanted to end up in rugby for a long time, and it just happened to happen now.”

And now Simjee has a winners’ gold medal, and the Boks – who were in superb shape throughout the year – are the champions of the world.