Ever since taking the rugby world stage in the 1890s, the South African Rugby Union has been passionate about pushing the boundaries of this traditional sport. Now in this new digital era, they’re using innovation to make a personal connection with fans and collaborating with Microsoft to prepare their sport for the future.
Analytics has become the buzzword of professional sports leagues worldwide, and for good reason: while coaches are using data to make strategic decisions, fans are falling in love with numbers, historical records relevant to their interests, and mathematically sound game plans. They want to understand why their team wins. South African Rugby is embracing this trend, unifying analytics at all levels of the organization and leveraging many Microsoft technologies and services to give it an edge in out-performing the competition.
The partnership with Microsoft will create an opportunity for us to develop innovative solutions to do things that weren’t possible previously.Jurie Roux, Chief Executive Officer, South African Rugby
Transforming data into a winning game plan
The Player Performance Platform (Stratus) is an ecosystem built for team sports that gives stakeholders the information and interactions necessary to perform at their best.
Now, using the Stratus Reporting Engine, South African Rugby has an organized view of all their data—collecting over 40 million data points from more than 6,000 games.
The Technical Coaching team can turn that data into insights, which coaches and players can translate into winning in-game strategies. Analysts can then use machine learning techniques to discover key learnings, once all of the data has been integrated into the reporting engine.
Springboks: pushing the edge of Rugby since 2012
Customized content for fans
Of course, this entire analytics endeavor isn’t just for the coaches—South African Rugby is using cloud technology to deliver on their business goal to become a trusted, fan-forward organization. In other words, they’re delivering what modern sports fans want and need: a taste of the winning secret sauce—analytics and relevant content.
To bring this fan-centric experience to life, South African Rugby is overhauling their website springboks.rugby as well. The new Fan Engagement strategy includes improved digital marketing tools, a holistic view of customer needs, and insights generated by machine learning.
The result is an aggregated and growing database of fans experiencing a deeper, more immersive version of South African professional rugby. And that’s part of the larger plan for today’s South African Rugby.
Looking ahead, the union is experimenting with a variety of Microsoft technologies to welcome the future of the sport.
They’re working on a smart stadium concept, which invites all stakeholders at a live rugby match to collaborate in a real-time environment. And South African Rugby is even looking to incorporate wearables into professional matches. While playing on a field surrounded by radio signal receivers, rugby players will wear devices that send broadcast transmissions. South African Rugby can then track their play in real-time using a method called time difference of arrival. They’ll even apply this technology to augmented reality, using a combination of time of flight (radio signals) and camera tracking to feed information to wearable lenses such as HoloLens. This will allow the team to make informed decisions without losing focus on the game.
Technology empowers coaches and players
Power of sport
Rugby has always had a way of bonding the rainbow nation. Siya Kholsi’ team has this chance again in 2019. In 2007 when the Springboks became champions, Siya never dreamed that he would be able to play on a world stage
I was watching it in a tavern because I didn’t have a TV at home. I know what it did for us back then. I have never seen people come together over sport (like that).Siya Kolisi, Springboks Captain