Face-off: blood, sweat and tears — what rugby and ballet are both about

2009-07-02 00:00

INCREDIBLE strength, bloodied feet, extreme precision, discipline, control and great exertion — can the rugby players take it?

Earlier this week, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers slighted the ballet community by appealing to rugby players to “man-up” following Schalk Burger’s eye-gouging accusation in a Test match against the Lions. In other words, he suggested sarcastically, if you can’t take rugby, turn to ballet.

“Ballet is by no means rugby,” says Hugh Bladen, SuperSport commentator and coach at the Wanderer’s Rugby Club. But Bladen encourages his young players to take inspiration from ballet dancers’ fitness, discipline and control. “Most of all, rugby is about watching ballet,” he says.

Midlands under-20 player Jean-Claude du Plessis disagrees, saying he could outperform a ballet dancer in fitness any day. “Oh yes, definitely,” he laughs.

This is the reaction ballet dancers like Ivan Boonzaaier are used to. After being labelled a sissy for choosing ballet over rugby, Boonzaaier proved that ballet keeps one just as fit. He scored the highest level of fitness in terms of blood pressure and heart rate in his grade 11 biology class.

Pietermaritzburg-based ballet teacher Brenda Hunter stresses the importance of daily practice. Ballet dancers are deceptively fit — you can’t see the amount of pain and effort that goes into a simple pirouette.

Ninety minutes on a rugby field is one thing, but dancing on a stage for three hours takes some beating.

Ballet may not be a contact sport, but ballet and rugby are ultimately two disciplines that require dedication, a high pain threshold and perseverance.

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