“Controversial” – Glamorous South Africa physio accused of ‘dark arts’ on the pitch - Ruck

“Controversial” – Glamorous South Africa physio accused of ‘dark arts’ on the pitch

Physiotherapist Rene Naylor has been instrumental in the reigning champions’ success, which has sometimes included their notorious engagement in ‘dark arts’.

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This dedicated sports masseuse, who has been part of the Boy team since 2008, is often right in the midst of the action, frequently captured on camera passionately motivating her team, all the while clutching water bottles and a first aid kit.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland issued a caution to England coach Steve Borthwick prior to their Rugby World Cup semi-final, urging him to address South Africa’s strategies, with a particular focus on closely monitoring the team’s physio.

During the 2021 Lions tour she garnered attention for fervently directing her players from just a few meters away, positioned near their try line.

Gatland wrote: “If I was Steve this week, I would be asking how that is going to be properly managed,

“To have any chance against the Springboks you must attempt not just to match them physically but also to be tactically smart and show no signs of mental weakness.

“For example, if I was Steve I would be asking some questions about the number of head injury assessments that South Africa called for in their victory against France.

“I am not questioning whether they were legitimate or not but there have been people out there speculating about it and I would certainly be putting it out there and highlighting that it looked unusual and raising questions about the protocol.”

A Springboks spokesman responded: “The laws of rugby do not forbid any of a team’s four technical personnel from communicating with players during play.”


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”