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Dr Ross Tucker, a well known Sports Scientist placed good articles about Rugby fatique before. I found this Article about the subject and want to share a few of his thoughts. The second part of his Article about home ground advantage is interesting, Here are a few extracts from the Article.
Sports scientist Dr Ross Tucker said on Wednesday that he would be surprised if the Sharks were rested by the time they take the field against the Crusaders.
“I heard that John Plumtree wants to keep his side on South African time, but it’s very difficult if you travel for half the week. A person’s natural rhythm is determined by light and dark, and a team that travels east over several time zones, has its days and nights turned completely upside down. Your body stays in the time zone from where you departed for a while,” said Tucker.
He added that there are ways of beating jet-lag – with, for example, chemical treatment and the manipulation for light and darkness around people.
“But it only really works for a two-day journey. It takes almost a day to recover for every time zone that you cross and the Sharks are flying over 10. He went on to say “There are individual factors, which may mean that certain players will be ready”
There has been much discussion around travel and the effect it has on professional sports teams.  Dr Ross Tucker takes a look at the different theories surrounding the ‘home-ground’ advantage.

The challenge of travel in Super Rugby at the end of the tournament

How big is home-ground advantage in the Super Rugby competition? Well, consider that since 2000, not a single team has won a playoff match outside its own country.
Home-ground advantage; consistently 50 to 70%
There is no question that home-ground advantage exists. For rugby, it’s never been published, but I have done an analysis of the last five years of Super Rugby competitions (the format and number of teams changes every few years, so it’s a shorter period) and in Super Rugby, the home team has won 61% of the matches they play.

Factors influencing home-ground advantage

This is a somewhat simplified summary of what we know, but generally, there are four factors influencing home ground advantage:
  • Travel fatigue for visiting teams
  • Familiarity with the city, the facilities, the playing arena
  • Crowd factors, which can be further broken down into:  a)  How the crowd influence the players , b) How the crowd influence the referee/officials
a) The crowd influence on officials – a subconscious bias
Starting with the referees (a favourite of sports fans everywhere), there is a real perception, true or not, that visiting teams are often ‘robbed’ by referee decisions. It turns out this is not a perception without some merit.
It’s also been found that the discrepancy in penalties awarded to visiting and home teams increases as the crowd increases in size.
One study had football referees make judgments based on video footage of obvious foul play, but some refs watched without sound, while others watched with full sound, including crowd reactions to fouls.
It turns out that with the sound, the referee is more likely to be swayed towards what the crowd is calling for.
b) Crowd influence on players
Harder to measure, but possibly as significant, is the effect of crowd support on player motivation and effort.
Certainly, sport is filled with testimonies of players who find “something extra”, who raise their level because they’re at home. But there’s no question that “psychology” (an incredibly broad term) plays a role in sports performance.

Familiarity ‘no place like home’

The fourth and final factor, which is linked to the psychological factors I mentioned above, is familiarity with the playing venue, the weather, the training facilities, and also the people who the player encounters in the week leading up to matches.  There’s some evidence for this too.
For example, in 37 sports teams who moved to a new stadium, home ground advantage fell by 25% in the first season at a new home.
In South Africa, we have a couple of rugby venues that are ‘hostile’ to visiting teams, and knowing a few players, they don’t particularly enjoy going there. The media tend to hype up the fortress idea, and while players should in theory be able to resist this kind of intimidation, there’s no question that mindset may be changed by the awareness of an away team.
In my experience, familiarity is a really crucial factor, perhaps the main one (though this is just my opinion born of my experiences with the Sevens side).  I believe it reduces anxiety significantly, and even allows players to find visual cues in the stadium that may help their performance.
Much of this happens away from the venue – it’s in the hotels, the people, the food, the TV stations in hotels, the sights and sounds. Just having family and friends around in the build-up is significant, provided it doesn’t cause over-arousal.
The key is whether the familiar experience is a positive one or not.  Positive experiences are easy to reinforce, and so a player will be more optimistic, more confident when playing at home.

Experience counts – reducing home ground advantage?

This is why experience is such a vital factor for success in tournaments away from home. This is why experience is such a vital factor for success in tournaments away from home.
Later this year, the Rugby World Cup takes place in New Zealand. Positive experiences erode these factors, and so teams who want to succeed, will, I believe, have to rely heavily on players who have been there, won there, and know the stadiums, hotels and people.
But then again, it’s still four white lines, a ball and the same set of rules.
Dr Ross Tucker, is Health24’s FitnessDoc and has a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Cape Town and a Post-Graduate degree in Sports Management from the UCT’s Faculty of Commerce. He is currently employed at the University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and works as a consultant to various sporting teams, including South African Sevens, Canoeing, Rowing and Triathlon SA.
He also blogs on
(Health24, June 2011)

10 Responses to Jet-lag, travel and home ground advantage – by Dr Ross Tucker

  • 1

    “the home team has won 61% of the matches they play”
    In fact it will be much higher it one take out the bottom 4 teams stats, they rarely win ANY game anywhere.

  • 2

    Today i am doing my old type job, but privately for my own pocket, in the Timbavati. Hope there is mane more coming , when my plans fall in place.
    So sorry if i dont post much. I catch up every evening, not that there is much to read. Whats up are we rugby tired? Everyone too busy? Will read all the comments when i am back.

    Maybe i can take a nice photo or more on the road. Will post some

  • 3

    @ superBul:
    Good luck superBul, starting your own business is always hard.

  • 4

    Very good article. A really good read this.

    Agree the travel will always be a disadvantage to any team. Don’t care if some don’t agree, it is a fact. Especially going East. Especially for a once off game like a semi or now days a play off. The team that travels will be always be at a disadvantage. Coming West is far easier. There is still a disadvantage, but not as great as going East.

    So far only one team has won away semi in SA from NZ. Landers and that was in 1999. No SA team has won a semi going to NZ. So that alone says it all.

    Home ground should always be advantage. Though sometimes this year it has not been, for all of sa teams.

    Wish the Stormers all the best and hope they can beat the Saders. Saders left early on Sunday. Coming west for them won’t be as tough as going east, but think with Stormers having a rest and not to travel. They should beat the Saders and hope they do.

    Good luck Stormers.

  • 5

    Also said when Sharks never left on the Sunday when they had the chance. They were making a mistake by going on the Tuesday.

    If they had got their a bit earlier they should just have adjusted to kiwi time and not stayed on SA time. Something I think they tried, it never worked for them, so Sharks probably will not do it again.

    I read Bulls do that and it seems to have worked for them. But one has to remember Bulls are living and training at high altitude. They go a bit late, they keep that altitude conditioning. With the bit of extra gas they get from that they seem to mostly win their first game on tour. The coastal teams don’t have altitude conditioning, so for me it was never gonna work for the Sharks.

    For the coastal teams the earlier you get to Oz or Nz the better.

  • 6

    @ superBul:2 – All the best Super. Hope it goes really well for you.

    Starting out on your own is a bit tough, but just hang in there it will get better. You won’t look back boeta.

    Nothing beats working for yourself. Your time is your own as well.

    Hope you took some photos there today. I always look at your photos. Need some new ones boet.

  • 7

    5@ Puma:
    Hello Puma, have not had the chance to say commisserations on the Sharks loss to you yet.

    Both the Bulls and Sharks were guilty of the same thing this season… not winning games they should have, early or in the middle rounds.

    One simply cannot win this competition figting for it from 6th spot… one needs to be at 3rd or higher, so that home town and home country advantage can play in your favour. With the changed format it is even more important to get to No 1 or No 2 for a rest week and home-semi.

    We have to now support what is left of the SA challenge… the Stormers.

    I am extremely hesitant to pick for this one…

    Does one go for home advantage or for the better balanced team?
    Does one go for the well rested side or the side with the stronger forwards pack?
    Does one go for the staunch Stormers defence or for the extremely creative Saders attacking capabilities?
    Does one go for the winner earlier in the season at Newlands (Saders) or for the phhysically more fresh side?

    The Saders have less of an injury crisis than earlier in the season when they played…

    What to do, who to pick?

  • 8

    @ grootblousmile:
    The thing that worries me is that the Crusaders , crusade is in full flight. They have targets, they want the be the worlds first to do this, they wont panic(i think) they know what they are capable off, i well drilled team with a mission.

    And then this bloody good team.

    Like Dr Ross Tucker said.
    Positive experiences erode these factors, and so teams who want to succeed, will, I believe, have to rely heavily on players who have been there, won there, and know the stadiums, hotels and people.

  • 9

    @ grootblousmile:7 – Gbs, You right. Bulls and Sharks let themselves down against teams they should have beaten. Also some bonus points went begging sometimes as well.

    In this very tough tourney top teams can never let their guard down ever. Sharks this season made so many handling errors and our lineouts just was never great. Also we seemed to only play 40min in most games, except that last game against the Bulls. But I feel Bulls and Sharks will be back. Well Sharks have played in finals, but never won any yet. Hope the Sharks play better next year and make it easier for themselves and not have to travel for a play off. Bulls will be back too. Probably will have to rebuild with so many leaving, but there are plenty good players coming through for Bulls. They one of the top sides and wont stay down for long.

    I personally don’t think there should be any play offs. The top 4 should just go into the semi and the last 2 into the final. Far better and less travel. Also would like to see the old format brought back, where every team plays each other once.

    Have not a clue who to go for on Bru this weekend. I knew last week to go with Saders, but I never go against my team and it has cost me this year, but would feel like a traitor not to have selected them. Probably next year need to go with my head.

    My heart says Stormers to win by 5 or 7. But my mind says Saders are up for this one. Stormers lost to Saders at Newlands in the pool games, Saders never had their full strength side. This time they come with their full strength team except Dagg. Not sure if McCaw will play he has hardly made a difference cause of being out most of the season. Is Read going to play? That he was injured but it seems he may not be. So with a Sader full strength side what can they do? Not sure.

    So have to think about that one before I put my picks in. Probably go with Stormers. I feel they have home advantage and rested. That gives them a big edge. Just that this a seriously good Sader side when they full strength. BUT the travel might have got to them too. Also this time we have a saffa ref. So that is good. Think Joubert is a very good ref.

    Anyhow want the Stormers win. If I win points on bru or lose it don’t matter too much. Just want our South African team left in this tourney to win and win the whole thing if they can. Stormers have my support.

  • 10

    9@ Puma:
    I have a feeling that I should do the unexpected and pick the Saders for a win on Bru… it would be my only hope of advancing above position No 8 where I am currently sitting. I feel that most of the punters in the running on Bru will go for the home win.

    If ANYBODY can win away from home in a semi, it would have to be the Saders.

    Another motivating factor is the fact that I expect some (not much) advantage for the Saders in the scrums.

    Of course I still hope for a Stormers win, they’re a SA side after all.

    Maybe I should back both away teams…. but that would be stretching the odds a bit…


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