12 Aug 2020
Springbok dietician Zeenat Simjee does her best to ensure the players put the correct 'fuel' into their 'tanks'.
When Simjee was appointed as SA Rugby's first full-time national teams dietician last year, her first task was to educate the Boks on nutrition.
'Every player is different and has different stories about the importance of nutrition throughout their careers,' she told Cato Louw during RugbyRocks.com's latest Instagram Live chat.
'Some players have had no exposure to it whatsoever and just happen to be absolutely amazing athletes anyway, while others know a bit more about it.
'Some of them say they are experienced rugby players and know what they are doing, and I say maybe nutrition could be that extra 1% for them [on the field].
'Some athletes think "it's just food" but don't understand what food does for their body. If it can save a baby's life, image what it can do for you as an adult.
'I always tell players they have to treat themselves like a supercar,' Simjee continued. 'The Bugatti Veyron is the fastest car in the world so you have to think of yourself like that. You have to fuel it and look after it so that it continues to perform at that incredible level.
'So it's continuous education. It's not something where you tick the box off once and you're fine. Players are changing throughout their careers, they age and they get injured.'
Simjee says a lot of the work she does for the Boks involves planning and preparation. This includes getting hotel menus right for the players.
'Before last year's Rugby Championship, we had to calculate the team's nutritional requirements and get the menus redesigned. I had to liaise with the hotels to get them to understand what I wanted to achieve and find out if they were willing to meet me at that level.
'You will encounter bumps along the way. If you've written up a menu, you need to check what is actually available at the buffet and that it's the right quality and has been prepared the right way.
'If a meal happens to be horrible because the kitchen staff got it wrong, then you stress because your players are not going to want to eat,' she added with a laugh. 'And you'd rather they ate then than order room service later!'